A step in the right direction for careers advice

Schools play 'critical role' in preparing young people for next steps in education or a career

17 April 2014

When I was 16 and faced with whether to continue on to do A Levels followed by university or take a more vocational path, there really wasn't a choice. It was assumed that university was the only viable option after A Levels and indeed there wasn't even any discussion about whether those A Levels were right in the first place. 

I don't regret my time at university and am grateful for the opportunities it gave me but I also strongly believe that it's not the only route to success. This is especially clear today when getting a university education at any institution costs up to £27,000 – a terrifying figure when the rates of employment among graduates are the lowest they've been for decades.

All of this is why I was pleased to read the guidance published by the Department for Education (DfE) last week that deals with careers advice and inspiration in schools. Careers advice in schools has always been very patchy with a tendency to stray little from the well trodden A Levels to university path that most teachers travel down. If more options are given, then this is thanks to individual teachers rather than any system-wide understanding of all the available pathways. The Government's decision to stop mandatory work experience for 14-16 year olds severed the links between education and employment further, making it even harder for young people to receive credible and up-to-date advice about their employment options.

When we speak to young people they often tell us of their disillusionment with school careers advice and their disappointment about the lack of access to employers, who they value most as sources of information about the world of work. Of the 3,000 young people we spoke to for our Ways into Work research, only 22% of 14-16 year olds received any careers advice from their teachers. This increased to 62% of 16-18 year olds yet worryingly only 12% of those actually found the advice useful.

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