Careers guidance in ‘crisis’ as survey finds less than one in five given vocational qualification advice

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has warned that careers guidance is “heading towards a cliff edge”, joining sector-wide calls to ensure young people are aware of all their options.

The comments made by CBI director for employment and skills policy Neil Carberry, come after a survey of 2000 14 to 25-year-olds showed that only 26 per cent of them were given information on apprenticeships and only 17 per cent were advised on vocational qualifications.

Mr Carberry said: “Careers guidance in England’s schools is heading towards a cliff-edge.

“Advice is scarce for young people not interested in being funnelled towards A Levels and university and exciting, potential life-changing career alternatives are being lost.”

The survey, conducted using the Barclays Youth Barometer, which measures young people’s aspirations, also found that only nine per cent received advice on starting their own business, and just over one in 10 (11.8 per cent) received no advice at all.

Mr Carberry added: “There is a worrying shortage of skills in some of our key industries and if we don’t give young people the information they need to find apprenticeships or sign up to high-quality vocational training, this will only get worse.”

The warning coincided with the publication of a report calling for action on a career advice “crisis”, published by the Skills Commission, a body administered by Policy Connect, a cross-party, non-profit think tank.

The report, ‘One System, Many Pathways’, was commissioned by co-chairs of the Commission MP Barry Sheerman and  Dame Ruth Silver, and is the result of a cross-party inquiry chaired by Sir Mike Tomlinson, former chief inspector of schools, and Ian Ferguson, chairman of trustees at Metaswitch.

It said: “The Department for Education must immediately acknowledge the crisis in information, advice, and guidance, and undertake a full review of provision.

“A range of sources must be available to all learners before the age of 14, their parents, carers and guardians, alongside access to trained advisors.”

“Real choice for all learners is firstly about creating the range of options within the system to cater for the diversity of learners. However, these options are irrelevant if young people and those who guide them are not given adequate information about the options available, or not advised on what is right for each learner.”

However, the report added: “Teachers are not trained to offer employment advice, and cannot be expected to understand what all careers entail, or even recognise how a particular aptitude might translate into a perfect career option.

Since April 2012, schools, rather than local authorities have been responsible for providing information, advice, and guidance on future careers.

However, the report added:  “As the recent Ofsted report made clear, this is not yet working, and Government must intervene before more learners leave this transition phase with scant clear knowledge from their educational provider about how their skills might translate into worthwhile employment.”

The Association of Colleges has launched the Careers Advice: Guaranteed campaign  to deal with the issue, after Ofsted found that very few schools were offering effective careers advice.

The campaign calls for increased access to advice through Jobcentre Plus and local authorities, accountability through Ofsted and investment from the Department for Education and informed choice for learners.

At the association’s annual conference last month, association president Michele Sutton said:

“Wherever I go, whoever I speak to, principals across the country all agree that the quality of impartial advice and guidance is nothing less than appalling,” said Mrs Sutton.

She added: “I would say to the Prime Minister — please, get a move on.

The campaign calls for increased access to advice through Jobcentre Plus and local authorities, accountability through Ofsted and investment from the Department for Education and informed choice for learners.

Mrs Sutton said: “The longer this disgraceful situation exists, the longer term effect there is on the young.”