Do you remember careers guidance when you were at school? If you were lucky enough to get any then it was likely bite-size in nature. You either knew what you wanted to become, or you had no idea. In which case the 10 minute chat didn’t add any depth to your decision making and the decision was relegated to the teenage ‘worry about tomorrow’ category.
Sometimes it’s all too easy to look at government initiatives and take the cynical perspective, however, here in the UK the government has launched a programme to link people from all sectors and professions to work with state schools and colleges to help young people achieve their potential. The initial focus is on short ‘Career Insight’ talks and ‘Enterprise’ talks’ in state secondary schools and further education colleges with the aim to expand the menu to cover a range of activities such as mentoring, reading and number support and work experience.
I have a belief that the ultimate wealth and success of a nation or group of people is best improved through improvements in ‘education’. I have etched in my mind some statistics that I saw a few years back which were based on work by Weiss (1998) and Gottfredson (2002) where a 3 point IQ increase led to a 25% reduction in the poverty rate, a 25% reduction in males in jail, and an 18% reduction in welfare recipiency. In a US context the annual gain/IQ point was equal to $55-65Bn or at the time 0.4-0.5% GDP. I have no worry that the figures may be out by a bit, it is the concept that works for me. Whenever I have been to developing areas of the world people place a disproportionate value on education compared to the developed world. As the developed world has developed it seems to have increasingly taken education for granted and often try to implement policies that bring everyone down to the lowest common denominator rather than pulling people up to highest common factor.
Education in this concept is obviously about more than just schooling and is a through-life concept, however, those early years are fundamental. Having spent 25 years in industry I’m painfully aware that you can have the best educated people, however, unless they can apply their intellect, then it will not convert to value. As with the coupling of invention and innovation, we have a 2-part challenge. Not only do we have to create educated people, we also have to work on the application of the available IQ, something that gets far less focus and space.
It is for this reason that I think that the UK government’s “Inspiring the Future” is an approach that we should rally behind. If we can help not only increase IQ, but also better apply it then we will have a chance of unlocking the real benefit which is much wider than just national and personal wealth. If only 0.1% of the UK working population of just under 30m participate, then that would be 30,000 people. If each of those enriched the education of a handful of young people then that would reach a significant percentage of the overall school population, which would be a great start.
If you feel that you can give up the equivalent of one episode of your favourite sitcom or just over one half of a football match then I’d urge you to go to the Inspiring the Future site and sign up. You never know what you might learn.