The Education Select Committee’s review of careers guidance came to worrying conclusions about the quality of service being offered to young people, but, as committee adviser Dr Tristram Hooley points out, it’s not just schoolchildren who need good advice.

Since the election major changes have been made to the careers education and guidance. These were not mentioned in the manifestos of the governing parties nor have they received much press coverage.

However, these changes have big implications for all learners and for young people in particular.

The Connexions service has been closed, the responsibility for career guidance relocated to schools, and the statutory requirements for careers education and work-related learning removed.

The Education Select Committee report highlighted many of these of changes and led to a flurry of press coverage.

One of the problems with the current debate about careers education and guidance is that it tends to focus on schools, as if people only make career choices in school.

This is not to say that careers shouldn’t be an important part of the school system, but rather to note that no matter how well schools address careers, they will never be able to do it all.

Career is a lifelong issue and therefore should be of concern for everyone interested in lifelong learning.

A key problem is the disconnect that exists between schools policy (overseen by DfE) and policy for adults (overseen by BIS).

Those who are under 19, but not in the school system are often forgotten, despite the fact that many of them would benefit from more career support.

Meanwhile BIS is trying to serve adults through the National Careers Service (NCS) while forgetting that adult learners who are in the FE and skills sector are also developing their careers.

There is a real need for those in FE to work closely with the NCS and to embrace both careers education and guidance as an integral part of the programmes that they offer.

Young people need opportunities to learn about alternatives to school”

Careers work speaks to the individual. It encourages people to take control of their lives and to be purposeful in driving their direction and development. At the heart of this is a strong commitment to lifelong learning.

The FE and skills sector should support careers education and guidance within the school system, as delivered by the NCS and within their own institutions for three reasons.

Firstly, young people need opportunities to learn about alternatives to school and advice to help them decide when to take these alternatives. Without careers support there is a danger that schools monopolise the pre-19 system and squeeze alternative provision out.

Secondly, supporting learners to think about careers whilst they are learning can help to retain them within the education system and enhance their performance.

Learners are willing to do the difficult bits of courses if they believe that this will take them closer to their goals.

Careers education and guidance helps learners to clarify their goals and understand what they require to achieve them.

Finally, careers provision can help learners to maximise the impact of their learning. If they are able to reflect on what they are good at and to identify the best place that their skills could be used they are more likely to make successful transitions and to value and utilise what they have learned.

Careers work aids this reflection and supports transitions to work and further learning.

In the long run, these issues need to be picked up and supported by policy. A future policy needs to move beyond a compartmentalised approach and recognise that people develop their careers across their learning, work and lives.

Further education should be at the heart of this both offering alternatives to school and opportunities for those who wish to return to learning and develop their careers.

The aspiration should therefore be to develop a lifelong career development system that serves both individual aspirations and the effective functioning of the education system and the labour market.

Dr Tristram Hooley, reader in career development at the University of Derby and head of the International Centre for Guidance Studies

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