Nick Clegg wants to introduce a “UCAS-style” one-stop-shop to help school-leavers who do not want to go to university to find work and training.
He has also confirmed that new guidance on delivering careers advice will be issued to schools with new requirements to develop links with employers.
In a speech at a school in London last week, the deputy prime minister said the online service, which will be brought in as soon as possible, will offer information on college courses, Apprenticeships and Traineeships.
It will be similar to the university admissions service UCAS, he said, which offers information on higher education courses and institutions. Local authorities will be responsible for keeping the information up-to-date and ensuring that there’s a guaranteed place in education or training for all young people.
Mr Clegg said he wants the new set-up, like UCAS, to become a “rite of passage for every 16-year-old”.
Elsewhere, Mr Clegg revealed that the government is to publish new guidance and requirements for careers advice in schools. He said that currently careers guidance was a “tick-box exercise” for too many students.
He said: “One of the most important changes we’re introducing is that schools will have a new responsibility to develop close links with employers, across their local area. This is so more young people can get the chance to meet successful business people, spend time working in their organisations and access valuable support like coaching or mentoring from people in the careers they want to do.”
Other proposals include encouraging a representative for local employers to sit on every school governing body and ensuring each school collected and published more detailed, up-to-date information about their pupils’ destinations post-16.
Meanwhile, new ideas to support young job hunters are to be trialled. One pilot project will see JobCentre support being offered to 3,000 students aged 16 and 17 in Lewisham, including advice on CV writing and job applications.
Two further trials will offer support to 18 to 21-year-olds to access training in basic skills, as well as work experience opportunities for those who have claimed job-seekers’ allowance for more than six months.
The Confederation of British Industry said that current careers advice in schools was “on life support” and that it has “long called for a UCAS-style system for vocational qualifications”.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the proposals could have an impact, if “backed by adequate government funding, infrastructure and resourcing”. But he questioned giving responsibility to local authorities for the UCAS-style service when the National Apprenticeships Service already has a database of all Apprenticeships, listed by region. “It would seem more logical to expand this,” he added.
Dr Deirdre Hughes, chair of the National Careers Council, said Mr Clegg’s proposals were “positive”.
She added: “However, if the best offer for young people seeking careers advice beyond talking to employers and schools is to find help in a JobCentre then the scale of ambition is insufficient.”
Mr Clegg announced his plans as new figures revealed a slight drop in the number of young people who are NEET – not in education, employment or training. Statistics show that one in seven – or 844,000 – 16 to 24-year-olds were classified as NEET in the last three months of 2013. This is down by 46,000 on the same period in 2012.