THE BLOG

Is Careers Advice Failing Our Future Generations?

04/09/2013 12:07 BST | Updated 03/11/2013 10:12 GMT

Information is everything these days. And with social media our access to it has become ever easier - a wealth of overwhelming possibilities at the click of a button.

And yet a new survey released by NUS, taken from a sample of over 800 students, reveals that careers advice, especially in relation to apprenticeships is failing young people. The information is simply not provided to allow them to make educated decisions. Over 50% of university students were reported as being unaware of the apprenticeships opportunities available to them.

Education is no longer merely about getting your Maths, Literacy and Science grades and being sent off into the world a 'rounded individual'. It's about specificity, honed skills and relevant experience. The advice on where to gain this is more of a pre-requisite to students than ever.

Speaking at this year's NUS Student Media Summit, NUS President Toni Pearce said:

"Students need the information and tools to thrive, whatever their learning journey. We need a no holds barred review of advice and guidance to ensure it is fit for purpose and fit for the realities of student's lives".

Furthermore, Pearce finds it "absolutely astonishing" that the government have yet to take action and police the services better.

The university experience opens doors and your eyes to a plethora of career options, ones you hadn't realised yourself capable, or that even existed. Suddenly the job market isn't quite a finite and categorical as the careers your primary school self hoped to pursue.

However university seems somewhat late to realise that. Your degree has been chosen and to a certain extent, you are committed - at least for 3 years - to a type of vocation.

Learning what options are available to you is something that needs to come at an earlier stage in the education process. Subject options come around as soon as Year 9 in most secondary schools and it's wise for students as young as 13 and 14 to start to think about how to put themselves in the best position to achieve their ambitions. The labour market will only become more competitive.

Information, it appears, is particularly lacking in the area of apprenticeships, with 21% of apprentices never receiving any information about their vocation from a careers service in a school, college or university.

Moreover, advice that is given is often substandard and non-specific. 46% rated it as either barely acceptable or very poor. The services are often woefully misguided and generic, pointing people in directions based on a few quiz questions.

Toni Pearce also commented that, with the recent spike in tuition fees across the country from roughly £3000 to £9000, other higher education options are looking more enticing. Since the sharp increase in fees, graduates face over £20,000 debts upon completion of their degree, a pretty terrifying thought that arguably caused the 40% drop in university admissions this year.

Degrees are not the only route into a fulfilling job. Moreover, vocational, or 'hands-on' work frequently requires an apprenticeship to get started and with a growing trend appearing for graduates and other students to seek out alternative career options our government has a duty to provide these opportunities.

Justifiably, careers advice is more important than ever and the government need to tighten and enforce legislation to ensure that schools, colleges and other organisational bodies are able to support the future generations.

The research from the survey undertaken also highlighted that the apprenticeship minimum wage (£2.65 per hour), which is less than half of the minimum wage for those over 21 (£6.91) was a major deterrent for those who considered apprenticeships.

If the government wishes to stave off unemployment, we need to inform and enable our next generation of workers, making the labour market not only appealing, but accessible in the first place.

As Pearce quite rightly notes, "you can't be, what you can't see".

Parents try and encourage their children to look beyond the glass ceiling, to strive for whichever ever job makes them happy. Yet if the government continue to allow inconsistent or inadequate careers services, or remove them altogether, as was seen with drastic funding cuts to Connexions, our future generation of workers will be woefully under prepared for the lives ahead of them.

If you aren't told about jobs, career paths, or alternatives to university before you're called upon to make the choice, how are you expected to make the right one?