Aspire Campaign to Tackle Covid Career Gap Crisis

21st June 2021

Following the government’s decision not to fully implement Sir Kevan Collins’ proposed £15 billion Education Recovery Plan, there are widespread fears that not enough is being done to mitigate Covid-19’s lost learning opportunities. However, it’s not just the academic attainment gap that is at risk of widening. Inequality in accessing careers support, work experience and opportunities to develop employability skills is also increasing, threatening to exacerbate the growing social mobility crisis.

To tackle these issues, social mobility charity, upReach, are this week launching their Aspire Campaign, providing free invaluable career resources to sixth-formers, teachers and parents. A 60 page guide has been delivered to every state school and college in the country - over 2,500 in total - with a wealth of resources including a Career Video Library and Teacher Toolkit available online.

Over the past year, careers advice at schools has been adversely impacted by school closures, with fewer opportunities to organise work experience or to develop key employability skills in the classroom. This is a result of the same inequalities that have resulted in those from less-advantaged backgrounds having less access to learning. Those from more privileged backgrounds can often rely on parents and family networks for advice about university and careers, whilst securing valuable work experience (more recently, virtually), and go to schools that have been able to continue with this provision.

Last month, in Launch Your Career’s ‘Careers after Covid’ report, it was revealed that 48% of secondary school teachers stated that their school’s ability to provide careers advice to their students has worsened since the start of the pandemic.

The report found that 70% of secondary school students are unsure about what they want to do for a career when they leave school, with one in five saying they have not received any careers advice from their school since the first lockdown in March 2020.

Similar concerns were highlighted by upReach as early as October 2020, with analysis of data gathered from the getEmployable platform suggesting that freshers who went to private schools were now 50% more likely than those at state schools to have had their school support them to explore suitable career options (69% vs 46%). This gap had doubled post-Covid, from 25% in 2019.

Amongst those going to state schools, those at schools with higher academic attainment received more career support than those at schools with lower attainment. Students attending these schools from poorer backgrounds (eligible for free school meals) suffer a double disadvantage of inferior school provision of career guidance or work experience, and lack of access to networks.

About Aspire:

Aspire includes a 60-page career guide and Career Video Library that showcases the wide range of career options that are available to sixth formers. With in-depth advice on different career sectors, their average earning potential and what qualifications are needed for these roles, Aspire was designed to give sixth formers the tools and knowledge they need to make more informed university and career choices.

This week, paper copies of the 60-page Aspire Guide have been posted to 2,524 state school sixth forms across the UK, including to those in social mobility coldspots. The Aspire website also hosts a Career Video Library, helping students to learn from inspirational role models talking about different career pathways (from Design to Engineering & Manufacturing) and their journey to securing these roles.

Teachers can also access a Teacher Toolkit of ready-to-use assembly resources, which will enable them to deliver high quality assemblies or tutor sessions that help students explore all their career options - be it school leaver programmes, Further Education, apprenticeships or graduate careers after university.

John Craven, Chief Executive of upReach explains why Aspire is essential:

“Much of the focus over the past year has been on schools replacing lost learning, and rightly so. However, in addition to academic qualifications, career advice and work experience are also essential for students to have successful futures and reach their full potential. Aspire helps Year 12 and 13 students who have missed out on career support during school closures and work experience opportunities due to the lockdown measures to understand different career pathways and access information on their post-18 options.”

Read the Aspire guide online here, and visit the Aspire website to watch the Career Video Library and access the teacher resources pack.

About upReach, the charity producing Aspire:

upReach are an award-winning social mobility charity that supports over 2,000 students from less-advantaged backgrounds to secure top graduate jobs, in partnership with leading organisations including Bank of America, Civil Service Fast Stream, Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, McKinsey and Slaughter and May. A team of 50 employees provide personalised support helping to broaden horizons, raise aspirations and enable students from low socioeconomic backgrounds to develop the skills, networks and experiences to succeed on merit. upReach won Charity of the Year in 2019 at the Charity Times Awards, and won the 2020 Embracing Digital Award in the Charity Governance Awards.

upReach launched Aspire to provide state school sixth formers with information about a range of post-18 options, from university to school leaver programmes and apprenticeships, as well as careers advice and inspiration. Aspire also showcases important role models: students who have come from less-advantaged backgrounds and broken into careers that can otherwise seem hard to reach.