Careers advice crisis continues

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Careers advice services for young people have once again come under attack after an inquiry laid bare the huge variation in provision across England.

The investigation by the National Careers Council (NCC) has highlighted continuing gaps in provision between adult careers services and those aimed at young people.

Its report says a great deal needs to be done if we are to achieve a “genuinely relevant all-age careers system” and calls for the government to create a “careers investment fund” to help support services.

A key tenet to the report is the fact that the National Careers Service (NCS) remains targeted mainly at adults, offering only telephone and online advice for young people and no face-to-face sessions.

It highlights that while the government has invested £109 million into the NCS, this includes just £4.7 million (from Department for Education funds) to pay for online services for young people.

One of the recommendations of the report is that the NCS acts urgently to make its website “attractive and appealing to young people, parents and teachers”.

The report highlights increasing success for the NCS’s services for adults, with more than 1.3 million face-to-face sessions taking place in 2013/14. By contrast, there is a continuing decline in young people using NCS online and telephone services, with just 27,400 calls and webchats taking place in the same period.

The report calls on the NCS to help schools access impartial face-to-face professional careers guidance, including for those students most at risk of dropping out and also for those with SEN.

It states: “There is good reason to believe that the impact of an expanded service to young people, parents and teachers could be immediate and significant, if appropriately resourced, targeted and managed.”

It is the latest in a line of critical reports into careers provision to be published since the government cut funding for the national network of Connexions centres and passed the duty to deliver careers advice onto schools.

The NCC published an initial report last year calling for a number of improvements. However, this latest document states that “one year on, we cannot pretend that the picture now is as we hoped it would be”.

The careers duty means that schools are now under an obligation to provide “independent and impartial careers guidance”, which invariably means working with external providers.

However, the report found that in some regions there were more than 100 careers providers, but in others barely any at all. It adds: “The growing careers market is crowded, confused and complex with a multiplicity of disjointed careers provision. This needs to change.”

It recommends that setting up a careers investment fund to support the development of successful careers initiatives would help to tackle this issue.

The report adds: “In addition, the fund could also be used to promote innovation and pilot different approaches. For example, a series of controlled trials, working with national and local providers to support young people’s learning and work destinations and evidence on the impact of local careers provision.”

Dr Deirdre Hughes, chair of the NCS, said: “Last year, (we) highlighted to government that a culture change in careers provision was urgently needed, particularly in getting good careers support for young people and adults into more classrooms and households. Some progress has been made but this has been far too slow. Meanwhile, our education and labour markets remain complex and confusing for young people, parents and teachers and there are significant costs associated with this. We urge government and others to take action across England to halt the rapid decline in careers services for young people.”

 


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