Chat with Cheltenham – Head of Higher Education and Careers

Here, Mrs Evans discusses the latest trends in higher education, the importance of networking and how she spent her gap year…

How can pupils be prepared for jobs that might not exist yet?

Back in 2016, the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicted that over half of all primary aged pupils would end up working in jobs that didn’t yet exist. Fast forward to 2023 and the rate at which technology has changed and continues to change jobs and the way we do them, is increasing.

Our pupils need to be digitally aware and understand that technology will play a large part in their future work, regardless of the industry or sector they join.

Cross disciplinary skills, the ability to think creatively and critically, to problem solve, manage information and self-manage are all skills that employers look for in today’s graduates.

In addition, the ability to collaborate, both virtually and in person, project manage and use advanced communication skills will help our pupils to build and develop successful careers.

What trends are you seeing in the higher education and careers office?

There has been a marked increase in broader higher education courses in recent years. Joint honours degrees, liberal arts degrees and combined honours degrees that combine two or more subjects have grown in popularity, as pupils in the Upper Sixth look towards keeping their options open and building those all-important cross disciplinary skills.

University courses that offer a year in industry are also increasingly popular, as pupils recognise the importance of work experience in securing a graduate job.

Interest in apprenticeships is on the rise as well, as pupils begin to question whether full time university education is the right path for them.

There is no long a stigma attached to not going to university, where once there was, and pupils are exploring opportunities in a whole range of different careers and industries.

What facilities does the HE and Careers Library offer?

The HE and Careers Library is open to all pupils from Third Form to Upper Sixth and pupils can drop in or email me to arrange an appointment to discuss anything from GCSE and A Level choices, to university, gap year or interview advice.

Upper Sixth pupils have a twice weekly UCAS drop in clinic in the Autumn term and pupils receive careers interviews with me in 5th form and again in L6th.

In addition, Mr Nelson coordinates all international university applications, Mr Jones oversees Medicine, Dentistry, and Vet Medicine applications and Mr Hollingbury coordinates Oxbridge applications and pupils can arrange to see them in person or attend one of the many information events that they offer throughout the school year.

What careers events have you got coming up?

Next term, the Arts and Creative Industries careers evening takes place on 11 May and we are looking for parents who work in this field to help support the event. Please get in touch ( if you would like to be involved.

What has been the most useful piece of career advice anyone has given you?

When I was at school, we didn’t have a careers adviser, but I do remember one of my teachers telling me how important it was to choose my own path and not someone else’s. Making decisions about careers and educational pathways is so personal and individual, and no one else can make that decision for you.

The second piece of advice I was given – many years later in my first job – was to recognise the importance of networking. I worked in recruitment at the time and growing and maintaining one’s network is such a large part of that particular career, but the professionals in that network have helped, guided and advised me numerous times throughout my career and it continues to expand and grow.

Did you take a gap year?

There was never any doubt that I wouldn’t take a gap year; I have always loved travel, new experiences and meeting new people. I worked for six months in a photocopy shop and a hotel bar, earning minimum wage (£3.33 an hour) to save up for my round the world air ticket.

I travelled to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and the US. I was on my own for parts of it, which was challenging at times, but it was a wonderful experience and has given me a lifelong love of travel.

I am a great advocate for gap years, but only for the right reasons. However a pupil chooses to spend it, I think they can offer the chance to take a break, grow and develop and re-enter education, training or work with a fresh outlook and energy.

What is the most unusual interview question you’ve ever heard and how would you answer it?

Sadly, I’ve never had an interview where I’ve been asked to estimate the number of footballs that can fit in a car, or if I were a felt pen what colour I would be, or if I could be Batman or Robin for the day, who would I choose. I think I’d enjoy wrangling with the answers to some of those.

Many years ago, a friend of mine in a graduate job interview was asked to rate their interviewer on the spot, which I thought was a very clever way of assessing the applicant’s ability to offer feedback – though fraught with possible pitfalls!

If ever asked a weird and wonderful interview question, my advice would be to think about what the interviewer is trying to establish about you. There is likely to be no right or wrong answer, they just want to see your approach to answering the question. Stay calm, talk through your thought process and demonstrate to them how you go about trying to answer a question like that, even if you don’t eventually arrive at an answer.