Careers advice is heading towards cliff-edge, CBI warns

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, from 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.

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.

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.”
He 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 a report published by the Skills Commission — a body administered by cross-party think-tank Policy Connect — calling for action on a career advice “crisis”.

The report, One System, Many Pathways, 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 [DfE] must immediately acknowledge the crisis in information, advice, and guidance, and undertake a full review of provision.”
It 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.

But, the report said: “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.”

Meanwhile, the Association of Colleges has its own Careers Advice: Guaranteed campaign calling for increased access to advice through Jobcentre Plus and local authorities, accountability through Ofsted and investment from the DfE.

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.”


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  1. Not convinced another review is needed, crisis is and has been understood and accepted for a long time now. Need a clear strategy and tangible actions – should consider providing ‘preparing for work’ generic advice and then have an appropriate intelligence bank for specific careers advice.

  2. Colin Barber

    Local authorities used to provide careers advice to both schools and adults through careers services staffed by professionally qualified careers advisers. The key to this advice was that it was impartial and delivered by professionals whose job it was to keep to date with the spectrum of local and national opportunities available to their client group.
    Over the past 15 years we have seen so called improvements come and disappear. Connexions for one was going to be the solution. Where have they gone? Local authorities have responded to budget cuts by cutting services and sadly local careers provision was one of the early casualties.
    In my opinion careers advice must be both local and impartial and delivered by professionals. Local because the advice must be based on the opportunities on offer in the locality. Impartial so that vested interests don’t influence the advice. How many young people have been advised to stay on for an extra year at school to do a qualification that will be of little or no use to them but which earns the school several £000 in funding?
    The professionalism that existed within the careers service has been diluted so that now you can call yourself a careers adviser through possession of an NVQ. My wife studied two years to gain a Diploma in Careers Guidance (Dip CG) a post degree level qualification. In my opinion that makes her a proper careers adviser. The Institute of Careers Guidance must take some of the responsibility for allowing the standards of the profession to become diluted.
    I don’t agree with AoC that careers advice could be delivered through Job Centres. JC staff don’t have the skills, expertise, local knowledge or time do do the job properly. I suggest that whoever made this suggestion spends a morning as a ‘mystery shopper’ in a Job Centre.
    By pulling the financial levers of local government, central government have brought about the systematic long term demolition of a functioning professional and impartial careers service. They have attempted to provide cheap alternatives, the latest being a national phone service, no comment needed from me!
    Only now are we hearing the wake up calls from influential bodies named in the article above. A little late but none the less welcome.
    Careers advice is about people, their lives and the long term economic health of this country. Cheap alternatives delivered by the semi-skilled or worse still by those with a vested interest in providing partial advice to meet their own agendas simply won’t do.