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Katy Jones
Katy  Jones

Select committee warns of a “worrying deterioration” in careers guidance

Authors: Katy Jones Katy Jones

25 January 2013

Young people are expected to make important choices from an early age about how to navigate an increasingly complex labour market transition. Good careers advice and guidance is essential to help them to do this, but a new report from the Education Select Committee highlights a “worrying deterioration” in careers guidance following changes brought in through the Education Act in 2011.

The report raises a number of concerns about the quality of support available to young people today, resulting from the government’s decision to transfer responsibility for careers guidance to schools. There is evidence already of declining provision both in terms of the amount of guidance young people are getting and the quality of this support. What is overwhelmingly clear is that individual schools cannot be expected to deliver the level of support needed on their own. The report offers some useful recommendations for how government can ensure that schools improve their current careers guidance offer, including:

  • A requirement for schools to publish an annual careers plan, which draws on the views of students, parents, employers and other learning - providers.
  • A new role for the National Careers Service in capacity-building and brokering for schools.
  • A minimum of one face-to-face careers interview with an independent adviser for every young person.
  • A requirement for schools to set out their arrangements with local employers and how they intend to enhance them.
  • Regular professional development for teachers to enhance their knowledge and understanding of the work place.
  • Extension of the National Apprenticeship Service’s remit to include the promotion of apprenticeships in schools.

Our report, Raising Aspirations and Smoothing Transitions: The role of Careers Education and Careers Guidance in tackling youth unemployment, offers similar suggestions.

A careers guidance offer that is responsive to changing local labour market conditions needs to be accessible to all young people. It also needs to be available from a very young age. We welcome the Committee’s support for government’s decision to extend support to pupils in Year 8. But we would go further and support calls for education about working life to start as early as primary school. Preparation for the world of work should not be an afterthought in the education system, but should be an embedded process throughout school life and beyond.

There were certainly limitations and drawbacks to previous approaches (see our report for more discussion) - but a steadily eroding offer is not acceptable, particularly when youth unemployment in the UK remains so stubbornly high. Government must act fast to turn this situation around.

Comments in Chronological Order (Total 2 Comments)

Laura-Jane Rawlings

25 Jan 2013 1:15PM

I have two roles, one the MD of a CE/IAG training company working in schools and two the Founder of Youth Employment UK CIC. The second came after the first had been made very difficult and the future of our young people became a very serious concern.
This Country is failing our children. It is not difficult to comprehend that young people should be inspired and have access to the skills and opportunities needed for successful transition.
That we have got this so fundamentally wrong should be a concern for all of us.
The careers provision before the cuts was not good enough, I am working with university graduates who would have received guidance from this service who do not know how to write a CV, prepare for a job interview or in fact understand how to job hunt; Young people who have taken qualifications that have not prepared them for work or indeed met the needs of employers and the jobs that are available.
When the government does decide on a new strategy to fill this void they must talk to young people, parents, employers and recruiters. They must understand where the opportunities are going to be for young people and ensure that the qualifications and pathways are aligned to future jobs.
We must ensure that teachers are confident to speak to young people given that 68% of 16-24 year olds go to a teacher before any other source of advice and they must ring-fence the funding schools need to deliver an exciting and full CE/IAG curriculum.
Careers education must be statutory, relevant, inspirational and started as early as possible anything else is a half-hearted gesture and not acceptable.

Mike McGinley

29 Jan 2013 9:32AM

Before looking to Schools to provide the answer to preparing children for transition to the workforce there needs to be a shift in how success is measured. Schools focus on a limited range of targets based largely on academic achievement because that is how they are judged etc.. If schools are to provide the something different then attention needs to be given to recruiting staff with the right skills and experience. At the moment teacher training focuses on the provision of high quality subject matter experts. Perhaps equal priority and oportunity should be given to people who have the background and experience, preferably from outside the teaching profession, to help children with their preparation for work or career. A large cohort of children are no destined to enter university and many will be looking to compete at the low pay end of the job market. A lifetime in academia does not necessarily equip the graduate teacher to help.
So the school could bring in the expertise as needed from expert bodies. This may help a little but these bodies will not be delivering a curriculum of workplace transition activities, monitoring progress and developing individual leaning opportunities.
When the criteria for judging the success of a school has been adjusted to include preparation for the workplace, and perhaps adulthood in general, and suitably qualified staff are recruited then things will improve?
There are fundamental issues still to address. Attitude and behaviour of the children in many schools makes teaching, even for good highly qualified subject experts, very challenging. Schools are having to deal with pupils who have little respect or regard for the their own education or that of their peers. The reasons for this are complex. A combination of parenting, culture, low self-esteem, the list is endless. Whatever the cause The outcome is disruption in the class room and a less satisfactory education for all concerned. This is not all children but generally those are likely to find he biggest challenge finding work or a career. They are rich in aspiration for material wealth but poor on determining how they achieve that and even poorer in acknowledging that any effort is required. It is very difficult for schools to put right something that the wider society has created.
The statement 'The Country is failing our children' is correct but we need to look across the Country as a whole to ensure that all areas acknowledge some responsibility. Schools and careers agencies can develop what is needed to prepare children for the workplace or develop a road map to a career but for many the question is how do we get them prepared to listen and engage? For that we need to create the opportunities for young people to have a positive attitude towards to future not structural solutions.