From education to employment

New rules risk depriving youth of key support, warns Institute of Career Guidance

MPs and Lords have been warned that young people will be deprived of key support if the proposed changes to the careers guidance are delivered, according to the The Institute of Career Guidance (ICG).

The main changes by the new National Careers Service for England, scheduled to be fully operational by April 2012, will include no funding for face-to-face guidance for young people, a service which has so far been provided by the Connexions service.

The Education Bill currently shifts responsibility for providing careers guidance from local authorities to schools that will be required by law to provide. But with no additional funding to schools, fears are that few schools will be able to afford to buy in career guidance services.

The ICG conducted extensive research from over 20 studies which demonstrates the importance in career guidance in young people’s futures. Research suggests that individual face-to-face guidance has the greatest impact, followed by group counselling and classroom interventions.

Deirdre Hughes, immediate Past President of the ICG and Associate Fellow at the Warwick Institute for Employment Research, says: “There is ample evidence that what young people want and need is face-to-face guidance.

“Many do not know how to identify suitable employers and many do not know how best to select a suitable institution or programme of study that can enhance their learning and personal development. Identifying talents and matching these to opportunities is a hit-and-miss affair without proper guidance.

“If young people are to be denied personal contact with a trained and experienced careers adviser they may end up making the wrong choices.”

The research also says that for many young people the lack of information about the choices available as one of the main barriers to their futures after the ages of 16. A study the conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2008 also points out the weaknesses in academically-trained teachers providing careers guidance.

The Education Bill states that schools will be free to make arrangements for careers guidance “that best suit the needs of their pupils, engaging, where appropriate, in partnership with external, expert providers”. A proposed clause in the Bill to ensure that all careers guidance secured by schools meets a national quality standard was defeated in the House of Commons, raising fears that a free market in careers guidance that compromises quality will develop.

Steve Higginbotham, current ICG President, says: “We are concerned that teachers will be encouraged to deliver career guidance and that pupils will only get access to online and telephone-based services.

“Careers guidance must be provided by professional advisers with suitable qualifications and experience. It is a huge disappointment that safeguards on quality and professionalism are not being included in the Education Bill.”

“The consequences are significant for young people who need the very best guidance in an increasingly uncertain jobs market.”

Ewan Palmer

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