School-to-work transitions are increasingly challenging for young people. Changes in the occupational landscape and reduced demand in the economy mean that choices are becoming more complex and opportunities more competitive. Young people need greater support to navigate pathways to employment and/or further training.
Together Careers Education and Careers Guidance can improve transitions. The evidence shows that good provision of careers education makes a difference in the long run by raising aspirations and encouraging academic achievement. When combined with careers guidance in the lead up to transitioning from school-to-work, it can minimise the risk of young people becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training). Face-to-face guidance plays an integral role in smoothing this transition.
However, changes to Careers Education and Careers Guidance that will come into effect in September 2012 are likely to compromise the quality, and availability, of provision. The Education Act 2011 ends the statutory requirement for local authorities to deliver a universal careers service for young people. Schools have instead been placed under a duty to secure independent and impartial careers advice, but have not been given any additional funding to do so. There is concern that ambiguity within the Act may allow for schools to fulfill their obligations by simply referring young people to the new National Careers Service (NCS), despite that those under 19 will only be able to access an adviser online or by telephone rather than face-to-face.
The statutory requirement to provide careers education has been removed, reversing the progress made towards establishing a long-term process of guidance. Without careers education, careers guidance is reduced to an abrupt and isolated intervention. Careers education should be embedded in the curriculum as early as primary school and expanded on with age in an effort to prevent young people from becoming NEET later on in life. Preventative measures like careers education are preferable for addressing young people at-risk of being NEET. If fewer intensive interventions are needed greater resources can be freed to help all young people as they attempt to make transitions post-16.
While we are concerned about changes to provision of Careers Education and Careers Guidance, now represents an opportunity to reinvent provision, particularly for those from disadvantaged groups.
Policy should consider the following principles:
- From Connexions – formerly the primary provider of careers guidance for young people – we learn that we should value diverse outcomes. Guidance should be as much about developing young people’s self-confidence and ability to manage transitions over time as it is about influencing destinations. By integrating guidance with careers education, young people can learn career management skills from an early age and work towards becoming self-sufficient. This is important if young people are expected to access and utilise resources on their own, such as the growing number available online, but also if they are to remain resilient in spite of multiple barriers to employment.
- Face-to-face provision is essential – particularly for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Young people prefer face-to-face guidance over all other sources1 because they are more likely to trust personalised support. Access to face-to-face guidance should be guaranteed onwards from age 13 at the very minimum. The lack of funding is likely to be the main barrier for schools in contracting independent advisers, and for those able to buy-in services there are further concerns about quality of provision. Greater standardisation and regulation of the careers guidance market is needed to ensure quality across the board.
Collaboration is key to achieving impact. The delivery of Careers Education and Careers Guidance needs to be widened to go beyond careers advisers and seek to include schools, employers and the third sector in engaging young people. Involving other key players will ease the pressure on careers advisers and above all, create a more engaging, interactive and healthy system of support. Just as tackling the problem of youth unemployment is a collective responsibility, so is Careers Education and Careers Guidance.
1 See for instance: Joyce, L. and White, C. (2004) Assessing Connexions: Qualitative Research with Young People. London: Department for Education and Skills.
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