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Girls and vocational education

(47 Posts)
Himalaya Fri 30-Sep-11 07:16:13

I volunteered at my DS's school this week - interviewing 15/16 year olds as part of their 'careers day'.

Amongst the top stream university-track kids the girls and boys were doing the same kinds of subjects and had similar ambitions, but amongst the less academic kids it was sharply divided with boys saying they were focused on tech, ict, business and girls wanting to do childcare and hairdressing.

I know this isn't NEWS, but it depressed me to talk to these girls who knew so little about the world and yet had been encouraged to specialise so early and define their ambitions so narrowly.

I chatted to the deputy head about it, who sighed and said 'it's very hard to challenge the overall culture, and that kids tend to go with their peers'. I guess their main challenge with quite a lot of kids is keeping them in school and motivated at all, so they encourage them to do things that correspond to their interests. But it just seems so limited and uninspired.

What can/should be done differently?

sloggies Fri 30-Sep-11 16:07:00

From the top of my head : my dd's secondary school do work experience, I am encouraging dd to think 'outside the box' a bit on this, even if she doesn't end up v interested, it shows there are other things out there. Attitude of teacher in charge of careers guidance would be all-important here. Said teacher could perhaps arrange for inspirational local women to come and do talks, particularly those in male-dominated fields. I do think some geographical areas are more 'traditional' than others.

solidgoldbrass Fri 30-Sep-11 17:50:38

Maybe to start with a lot more focus on jobs that even mundanes people who don't think about it very much think of as non-gender-specific. Travel agent, undertaker, catering (across the board ie you can be a chef or a cafe owner) gardening/garden design, sports and fitness...

scarlettsmummy2 Fri 30-Sep-11 18:03:29

I think a major issue is also general academic ability. I run an employment programme for the 'NEET' group of young people, and the majority that I see, who are meant to be closest to the workforce, have huge issues with literacy and numeracy. I imagine this then encourages the school to point them in the direction of either trades or hair and beauty, as they have limited other options. It particularly depresses me with regards to the girls as their long term financial security is much worse than a boy leaving school with a similar level of qualification who then chooses to go into joinery/ plumbing etc.

On the positive side, one of our young girls has just got a plumbing apprenticeship, however, this was the first female in six years of running the programme.

solidgoldbrass Sat 01-Oct-11 03:20:34

There are lots of jobs that don't need academic ability, though. And surely if these poor little sods are struggling with basic literacy and numeracy that should be addressed first because they are never going to manage without those being fixed.

scarlettsmummy2 Sat 01-Oct-11 08:35:26

Thats exactly what I mean- their literacy and numeracy are so poor that options are severely limited. Although many jobs don't need academic ability as such, they do need good written and numerical skills.

SuchProspects Sat 01-Oct-11 16:51:51

I always wonder about this and my (un-explored, sitting in the bath) hypothesis is that it is partly because it just isn't made clear to girls what these choices mean.

Surely non-academic girls are motivated by money a bit? Is it made explicit and clear what the salary difference is? And what that adds up to over a life time? in terms they may be able to relate to like clothes or video games or the ability to go on holiday?

I know women often end up "making choices" that on average make them likely to earn less money than men. And I know women often say in surveys they are more motivated by values like job-fulfillment, work/life balance/ethics compared to money than men admit to. But I don't know any women who actually want to be on minimum wage.

KatyMac Sat 01-Oct-11 16:55:16

Steer non-academic girls away from childcare please

I have a reasonable level of education & I struggle with the level of written work required

(sorry I know that wasn't what you were saying but it is not possible any for for semi literates)

Himalaya Sat 01-Oct-11 18:32:12

SGB - yes I was thinking the same thing - there are so many non-gender associated skills and jobs, and yet the ones the less academic kids refereed to tended to be those that were most stereotypically male or female. It seemed like the academically able kids (and those with more ambitious parents) get another 5 years after 16 of self discovery, but these young kids are picking the obvious 'pink' and 'blue' careers before they even know what's out there, or who they are.

I agree Scarlettsmummy and SuchProspects - the girls I talked to all said they wanted a 'good career' and to make money, and no one seemed to have told them what the qualifications they were going for wouldn't earn them that much.

I wonder if schools should know and tell kids and parents what each qualification is 'worth' in terms of average future earnings.

When I was chatting to the deputy head afterwards and I said that the boys career choices and the girls choices were not just different but financially unequal, it seemed like that wasn't something they talked about at all.

tethersend Sat 01-Oct-11 18:37:43

Ah yes- the curse of hair and beauty.

IME, much of the problem comes due to the fact that a lot of young girls with low academic ability and/or behavioural difficulties quite often have no idea that certain careers exist.

There should be a sort of mentoring scheme in existence to target girls (and boys- but particularly girls) who become disaffected with education for whatever reason, so there are more options that syphoning them off to hair and beauty/childcare courses. Many of the girls I have taught are only aware of their immediate family's occupations and pop stars. They are not making informed choices.

SardineQueen Sat 01-Oct-11 18:51:14

TBH I think that children across the academic board are unaware of the amazing range of jobs that are out there.

I think it comes back to career guidance. It was shit in my day, it's shit now. How can you choose a different path if you don't even know it exists?

tethersend Sat 01-Oct-11 18:53:14

Very true, Sardine.

TheCrackFox Sat 01-Oct-11 18:56:29

Good post SardineQueen.

TBH I have a good degree from a RG (I hate that phrase BTW) and TBH it was a waste of time and money. I would have quite liked to have been a hair dresser (or anything more practical) but if you show any academic abilitity in school that is frowned upon.

WilsonFrickett Sat 01-Oct-11 20:23:30

When I did a (very little) bit of a presentation to some hard to reach young people a few years ago, I was positively ordered to come in a suit (I had one, wore it to work maybe once a month if that smile) and when I asked why, the youth worker said that many young women never see anyone in 'office dress'. I was very shock because I had a lot of experience of being pushed towards 'admin type' roles at school and I assumed that was still considered a vocational choice for girls. But it really isn't.

But everyone goes to the hairdressers and it looks sociable, fashionable and fun. So that's what people plump for.

It's really sad, IMO and needs challenging.

Himalaya Sun 02-Oct-11 00:38:11

Tethersend & SQ - i agree, but I think at least for kids who go to Uni there is a chance to keep their options open longer, a safe space to mature and experiment with their identity and to try out different subjects, interests etc...and build wide networks.

For kids not in the academic stream it seems to be the opposite - a tendency to specialise early on to a narrow pathway and a tightly constrained view of possibilities, without being given opportunities for self discovery.

PonceyMcPonce Sun 02-Oct-11 00:43:55

I think visits from women doing jobs that interest them and make them self supporting is key to showing where a girl can go. The list of jobs women do on here is inspiring.

Referring to anyone you consider dull or ordinary as 'mundanes' as about as stupid as saying girls should be hairdressers or nannies, sgb.

Why do you name yourself after a prostitute anyway?

margerykemp Sun 02-Oct-11 05:45:44

But what careers are there for non-academic girls? The traditional '5cs' (catering, cleaning, clericare, caring) are all badly paid. Their arent 'pink' equivalents of plumbing, ie good hourly rates for low level quals.

margerykemp Sun 02-Oct-11 05:50:50

Sorry, that should be clerical and cashiering.

SuchProspects Sun 02-Oct-11 08:31:12

Margery The point is girls should see plumbing etc. as jobs they can do. There shouldn't be different sets of careers for boys and girls.

tethersend Sun 02-Oct-11 09:05:23

"For kids not in the academic stream it seems to be the opposite - a tendency to specialise early on to a narrow pathway and a tightly constrained view of possibilities, without being given opportunities for self discovery."

Interesting observation; but I can't think of a forum in which non-academic young people could keep their options open and experiment, other than within full time education. Many non-academic kids are completely frustrated and disaffected by the education system by the age of 16, and are driven by a desire to earn. Capitalism has no place for an earner to embark on any sort of journey of self-discovery.

Perhaps the raising of school leaving age will go some way towards addressing the problem; but in order to address it fully, I think the education system needs a massive overhaul in order to combat the disaffection felt by so many (particularly non academic) young people. And it needs to go further than introducing GNVQs in lifting and carrying. In fact, I think it needs to stop looking upon children as academic/non academic at all.

Himalaya Sun 02-Oct-11 09:19:47

Margery -

Yeah girls should be able to do 'boy's' careers. But also I think that both girls and boys should look at not just 'hourly rates with low quals' but earning potential in the long term - I.e. Prospects. Actually in Hairdressing this can go up, but you need a big investment to go into business yourself, and you need to know accounting, HR etc...

I think a key thing is demystifying 'office work' which can lead in all kinds of better paid directions, and includes the basic skills for running your own business - planning and project management, budgeting and bookeping,research, IT, writing clearly, managing people, legal compliance etc...

Obviously this is out of reach of kids who struggle with basic numeracy and literacy (but shouldn't those kids be learning that??) but you don't need university for.

KatyMac Sun 02-Oct-11 09:25:53

tethersend I agree

I do wonder if we should throw them all out of school at 14, with set jobs that they can do; then offer then specialised training (free) at 20 or 22 for 6 years but it wouldn't work

margerykemp Sun 02-Oct-11 11:07:29

Maybe we are coming at this the wrong way?

At the end of the day someone still has to do the 5cs type jobs and until they aee well paid enoug& to attract men then they will remain low paid low status 'womens work'.

We should look at why we dont pay our childcarers, cleaners, cooks, carers so little. These are important jobs eg cleaners preventing mrsa in hospital.

Himalaya Sun 02-Oct-11 11:30:17

There is a limit to what people can earn in basic service provision jobs - because if it becomes too expensive people will just do it themselves (cleaning, childcare, haircuts) or mechanise it ( supermarket checkout) or outsource it (call centres)....

I think, although schools don't talk about lifetime earnings (and perhaps BECAUSE they dont talk about it) there is an underlying assumption that a good job for a boy is one where earning power goes up with skill level over many years, even if it starts low, where for a girl, equiping her only for a long term job which never rises that much above minimum wage is still seen as ok.

SardineQueen Sun 02-Oct-11 12:12:28

From the OP " boys saying they were focused on tech, ict, business and girls wanting to do childcare and hairdressing"

The thread has turned to plumbing vs hairdessing now.... But there is no reason whatsoever - either to do with perceived physical limitation or traditional ideas - that girls can't do the examples in the OP. I don't see any of these 3 things as "male" in the way that I understand things like plumbing are seen as male. So why are the boys choosing them and the girls not? These are all areas with potential for salaries from low to very high with plenty of opportunity and room for progress and moving laterally. So why are they ascribed to boys?

Is it simply that jobs are split between not very academic boys and girls on the basis of earning potential? Is it assumed that not very academic girls will not be ambitious, while not very academic boys will still need to earn as they will one day have a family to support? And anyway they are male and males need more monoey and minimum wage work isn't for them?

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