Young people instinctively turn to their parents when they need help or advice so it’s no big surprise that teenagers pay most attention to their parents when it comes to making career decisions. Research has shown that parents are the most significant influence on young people’s expectations, choices and career ideas. Schools should therefore be making every effort to assist parents in this important task and to involve them as partners in the school’s programme of careers education.

What help do parents need?

While parents are expert in understanding their children and helping them to find things out (e.g. for homework assignments) and to make rational rather than impulsive decisions, many struggle when it comes to supporting their children’s career development. One of the main reasons for this is the extent to which education, qualifications, training and career pathways have changed since they were leaving school.

Parents want their children to do well in life and the more knowledge they have about the career development issues facing their children, the better equipped they are to support them. In order to give their children the best possible help, parents need an up-to-date picture of:

• what is happening in education, training and the labour market
• qualifications and how they are assessed
• how RPA (the raising of the participation age) affects their children
• the decisions their children have to make and when they have to make them
• the various factors their children should consider
• the main options their children have to choose from
• the potential impact of different choices on their children’s future
• how their children can keep their options open
• opportunities for their children to gain new experiences, knowledge and skills (including through work experience, volunteering and other enrichment activities)
• application procedures and timescales
• financial support for learning and other money matters
• the help their children will receive through careers education and guidance at school
• where they and their children can get extra information and help if they need it.

What help do schools provide?

Good schools use a combination of approaches to ensure that parents receive the help they need. Commonly used methods include:

• a careers page on the school website – with links to other sites and a list of useful contacts
• special careers events (e.g. information sessions, careers fairs, taster activities and workshops)
• drop-in careers clinics/surgeries for parents to attend with their children
• individual appointments/one-to-one sessions
• informational emails, texts and tweets
• a careers section in regular newsletters to parents