Getting your kids through GCSEs? Career advice tips for parents

For parents, helping their child choose a career can be a complicated and confusing process. The worlds of education and employment are changing so fast, many parents can be overwhelmed by the opportunities available to their children and some prefer to stick to “what they know”.

Independent research from the Association of Colleges* published in 2012 gave a clear indication of the problems facing parents and teachers when trying to assist in this area: 82% of teachers believe they lack sufficient knowledge to advise pupils effectively on careers. One fifth of the parents questioned feel out of their depth advising their children about careers and almost a third (32%) are only comfortable discussing jobs they are already familiar with.

So what can parents do to assist their children in selecting the right career? Ross Maloney, Chief Executive of The Skills Show, the UK’s biggest skills and careers event, has the following advice:

• What does your child actually want to do? Get them to sit down and really think about it – their own ideas on a future career path may differ from your own, but it is important to remember that a happy worker will always be more satisfied than one who is pigeonholed into a career they do not want.

  • We all know that work can be rewarding, fulfilling and sometimes even fun – but it is work! Children need to realise that, without it, the basics of life may be harder to come by (a home, a car, pocket money!)
  • Encourage your child to research the careers of people in the public eye that they admire, to see if they have taken an unexpected route to success. Theo Paphitis, for example, started his career as an apprentice and worked his way to the top.
  • Encourage your child to talk to you about your career and that path you have taken. They could also talk with the rest of the family, friends and neighbours, and with their teachers – knowledge is power!
  • Investigate whether it is possible to arrange some work experience for your child with a colleague or friend in an area that interests them – having a go will give them a real taster.
  • What is your child really passionate about? They are far more likely to succeed in these subjects, and the jobs and careers associated with them, than those that they feel they “must” study or which you insist on.
  • Visit The Skills Show – the UK’s largest skills and careers event, which takes place at the NEC, Birmingham from 14-16 November 2013. It is free to attend, and provides a wealth of knowledge about the world of work, from the Have a Go areas, where visitors can try bite-sized experiences from a wealth of careers to Spotlight talks from industry insiders and famous faces.

Famous “Dragon” and entrepreneur Theo Paphitis said,

“As a parent myself, I know how hard it can be to provide the right advice and guidance for children as they reach the point of choosing their careers. The Skills Show provides a unique shop window for visitors to see the opportunities that vocational training and skills can offer, and the chance to actually ‘Have a Go’ at a wide range of skills will inspire and inform the choices that young people make about their futures. From my experiences at last year’s event, I know how energising it can be to discover something you are really good at and would recommend it to anyone who is considering what their next step might be – it’s a fun day out as well.”


The Skills Show is free to attend, and is supported by The Skills Funding Agency and The European Social Fund, with premier sponsorship from City & Guilds, Edge Foundation and Premier Colleges. For free tickets and more information, visit



I’m Mary Cummings, a ghostwriter, collaborator and all round word doctor. I help business owners write and publish business books; I'm also passionate about helping creative freelancers find work that they love - their work sweet spot with work on their terms, projects they love and clients who are a dream to work for.

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