A new era for careers advice

We explore the current state of careers advice and where it's heading in the future

03 November 2014 / Be the first to comment

School careers advisers, teachers and parents are the most widely accessed sources of advice for young people deciding their next steps after school.  But a new survey from City & Guilds found that nearly half of parents (49 per cent) don't fully understand what educational alternatives are available outside of GCSE, A-Level and university. This confusion means a third (34 per cent) feel ill-equipped to advise their children on what to do when they leave school.

Research for the City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development in 2011 found that a quarter of young people had received no information about their choice of careers or qualifications, rising to 28 per cent on vocational routes. Respondents said they felt that taking vocational courses would narrow the employment and education options open to them.

The view from here

 So has this view changed in the intervening years? Gareth Lindsay, team manager at work-based learning provider North Lancs Training Group (www.nltg.co.uk)  is cautiously optimistic. He says: ‘The Government is pushing vocational training and apprenticeships but it still seems that the academic route is promoted more in schools, which is belittling to apprenticeships as there is an academic side to these as well. We are finding this view changing, but any change we do see seems to be coming from external bodies.’

Looking for leaders

So whose responsibility is it to equip parents, teachers and advisers to support young people’s vocational education choices? Joe Billington, director of the Government’s National Careers Service (NCS), says: ‘Vocational learning is increasingly valued by employers and learners and it is improving people’s employment prospects. More than 100,000 employers are offering apprenticeships in more than 200,000 locations, [which] is why it is crucial that employers, schools and colleges work more closely together to provide inspiration and real-life contact with the world of work.’

Local inspiration

In fact, the National Careers Service has evolved a new model for operating to meet the new challenges facing careers provision and has re-contracted the whole service for October 2014, as Mr Billington explains: ‘Our new service will establish national standards and expectations of quality and service, supported by a national contact centre, that will hold information and advice for individuals and employers and a national website (nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk) through which customers will be able to manage their own career plans and actions.’ At its heart will be a local service combining digital, telephone and face-to-face advice in partnership with local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, employers, Higher Education, Further Education and the voluntary sector, to provide young people and adults with experiences, information and guidance that will help them take advantage of local opportunities.

Change is coming

Gareth Lindsay has already noticed a shift: ‘Our relationship with schools is better than ever,’ he says. ‘We are now working with around 30 schools in our area and we have a noticeboard in every one of them with a picture of the careers liaison officer, a list of current vacancies and information about taster sessions and work experience. We take current apprentices in to speak to pupils and offer free sessions on how to write CVs and what to do in interviews, and all our apprenticeships are permanent jobs from day one.’

Room for improvement

It’s down to schools to push this forward, according to Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, who says: ‘Schools must be held accountable for ensuring that all young people get independent and impartial advice and guidance about all their options, including the costs of various routes open to them, the funding available, the range of occupations that can be accessed, as well as the labour market demand and likely wage returns for these occupations.

And the way to do this? Mr Segal thinks training providers are the lynchpin, adding: ‘We should engage training providers that can make the links between schools and employers.’ Mr Billington agrees: ‘Careers advice must inspire people to look ahead and develop new skills to prepare for the future, while providing relevant, up-to-date information and insights into workplaces. We look forward to working with colleges and learning providers together with employers, schools and others in inspiring people to realise their potential.’

For Chris Jones, chief executive of the City & Guilds Group, it’s about choice: ‘It’s so important that young people are told about all the options available to them. Our research, (‘Ways into Work: views of children and young people on education and employment’) found that a third of 17-18 year olds surveyed had not received any careers guidance in school. What’s also worrying is that those who do receive advice are often directed down a route that isn’t necessarily right for them. Young people deserve access to balanced, impartial advice to help them make the right decisions about their futures.’

This article was written by Sasa Jankovic, contributor to TES supplements, for Agenda - our magazine for independent training providers. Read the full issue of Agenda online.

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