Careers advice ‘getting worse,’ warns government education committee

The quality and quantity of young people’s career advice is not good enough and is getting worse, a government review has found.

A “deterioration” in guidance since the service became the responsibility of schools in September was identified by the Education Select Committee, whose report on careers guidance was released today.

The committee chair, Graham Stuart MP, questioned the advice of schools who, he said, “put their own interests ahead of that of their pupils, restrict access to other education providers and make the filling of their sixth form places more of a priority than their statutory duty to provide independent and impartial advice and guidance for pupils.”

We have concerns about the consistency, quality, independence and impartiality of careers guidance now being offered to young people”

The review, announced in June, looked at how careers guidance was affected by the Education Act 2011.

The Act saw provision of the service shift from the duty of local authorities, delivered by Connexions, to schools.

“We have concerns about the consistency, quality, independence and impartiality of careers guidance now being offered to young people,” said the committee report, which referred to the transfer of responsibility for careers guidance to schools as “regrettable”.

“We heard evidence that there is already a worrying deterioration in the overall level of provision for young people.

“Urgent steps need to be taken by the government to ensure that young people’s needs are met.

“Too many schools lack the skills, incentives or capacity to fulfil the duty put upon them without a number of changes being made.

“Young people deserve better than the service they are likely to receive under the current arrangements.”

The committee heard from a number of education sector big-hitters, including FE Minister Matthew Hancock and Dr Deirdre Hughes, chair of the National Careers Council, who said there was a potential loss of £28bn to the UK economy if young people were not given the right career guidance.

Mr Stuart MP said: “We found that the quality and quantity of guidance for young people is deteriorating just when it is most needed.

“We want face-to-face guidance to be available to all young people as an integral part of a good quality careers service. They deserve and should receive far better support than current arrangements generally allow.”

He also called for the National Careers Service (NCS), which he described as “a great innovation for adults,” to be extended to support schools.

“The NCS must also be adequately funded to deliver this critical service for young people. Schools can’t simply be left to get on with it,” added Mr Stuart, who called for schools to produce annual careers plans to “ensure they can be held accountable for what they do”.

See the next edition of FE Week for reaction to the education committee’s findings.

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  1. Sharp slap on the wrist for Gove!! There is clearly great tension between the Select Committee and the DfE, and Matthew Hancock was given a very hard time when giving evidence. This is a subject I have frequently sounded off on. The whole careers guidance issue is integral to improving the employability prospects for young people.- Providing multiple quality pathways into the world of work requires a flexible, sophisticated range of supporting mechanisms of guidance, and as the Report clearly states, schools fully accountability for this. It also requires schools to accept responsibility for ensuring they produce pupils who are fully employable across a range of hard and soft skills, and not leave it to employers, FE colleges and private training providers to plug the gaps they have left.

    • It is not just the lack of careers guidance but the wasted opportunities for work experience because of the lack of employer contacts held by schools and almost all schools in the country trying to get placements in the the same two week block. There is no co-ordination at national or local level and the really valuable experience of ‘sampling’ a career is missed by the majority of our young people. Just how difficult would it be to transform this vital area? Funding for 14-16 courses such as young apprenticeships was cut and a lot of very good work by colleges and independent learning providers vanished. The NAS website which is the main independent source of careers guidance for young people considering apprenticeships is not the answer without a great deal of development. I think we all know the answer to the question ‘can we ever trust schools to give independent careers advice’?

  2. The lack of impartial careers advice from the majority of schools, particularly on apprenticeships, has come up again and again in Ofsted reports. There is not a will to invest in putting a situation that impacts on thousands of young people every year right. When I recently went to the sixth form options evening at my son’s outstanding school they were to offer an NVQ in catering as part of a hospitality diploma for the first time. Several key points of information given were wrong, they said pupils would have to pay ‘hundreds of pounds’ for the food they used on top of money for books and equipment and clearly did not understand the requirements for delivering an NVQ. Now I wonder why their careers staff don’t mention a certain outstanding college where Jamie Oliver did ever so well?

  3. As Mr Stuart rightly points out, our young people need to be given consistent, quality and independent career advice if we are going to help set them up for successful careers.

    The fact is that lack of this guidance is hampering young people’s future prospects and something needs to be done. So much emphasis on going to university has meant that the youth of today are restricted in their knowledge and understanding of how best to get into their chosen careers. All the options need to be laid on the table including vocational education and apprenticeships which not only help to bridge the skills gap, but equip young people with employability and life skills that they wouldn’t get in a classroom.