Debate Over Renewed Focus on Career Guidance

Inadequate career guidance and advice from schools is exacerbating the UK’s skills gap, says a report published in the last week.

Good Career Guidance

A new report published at the end of last week by the Education, Skills and the Economy Sub-Committee, has stated that the skills gap in the UK is being worsened by poor career guidance given to pupils by their schools.

It was argued that poor career guidance was stopping young people making informed career decisions, which in turn was harming the country’s economy.

The report, the first published by the Sub-Committee, also argued that there needed to be greater oversight over the wealth of organisations, service providers, and websites set up to offer careers advice.

The report concluded that schools needed to be held to greater account when it came to careers services, and that this should make up part of annual inspections.

“Big Stick” Approach Wrong

However, the report came in for criticism from head teachers’ leaders, who argued the “big stick” approach of downgrading schools for poor performance wouldn’t solve fundamental issues with the careers advice system.

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that there were severe problems in the existing system that urgently needed fixed, while school budgets were frozen and under severe pressure.

It was argued by other leaders that the threat of downgrading and inspection was not an effective way of driving improvements in career guidance.

Effective Career Guidance

However, there was agreement that steps needed to be taken in order to better equip students and school leavers with the right advice for their careers.

As the business world continues to change and evolve, students need the best possible advice about experiences, qualifications, and training needed for chosen careers, or how to get involved with new and emerging industries.

And this is not necessarily about just encouraging school leavers to go on to higher education and university, a criticism which has been levelled at many schools, but also making them aware of apprenticeships and other work opportunities.

This could be done through giving pupils better access to employers while still in school, work experience opportunities, and career talks from former pupils and local business leaders.

Seamus Nevin, Head of Employment and Skills at the Institute of Directors, said: “The IoD welcomes the committee’s focus on careers guidance, which by all accounts remains an Achilles heel in the UK education system.

“Alarmingly, just 43 per cent of students currently receive any formal careers guidance before choosing their A-level subjects and yet the subjects they choose can severely restrict their employment options later in life.

“This is partly because only 83 per cent of secondary schools employ a qualified, full-time careers adviser, with many relying instead on other support staff to fill career guidance roles. The only way to solve this problem is to improve guidance, not punish schools for being poorly equipped.”