THE BLOG

We Must Act Now to End Careers Advice Crisis

28/01/2014 15:51 GMT | Updated 30/03/2014 10:59 BST

If anyone doubts the scale of the careers advice crisis the UK faces, it would be worthwhile drawing their attention to the following facts - a third of young people get their careers advice from TV, while one in ten girls look to celebrities for inspiration. Clearly, deciding to become a police officer just because you watch CSI religiously is not a good idea. Likewise, I am sure you would agree that celebrities gracing the cover of Hello! may set the latest fashion trends, but they are often not really appropriate role models to base a career on.

The situation facing our young people is the logical consequence of a failure to provide them with the careers support they need. Research by CBI and Barclays last November shows that 93% young people feel unsupported with their career choices. At a time when one million 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK are not in education or training - and we hear continuous complaints from business that they can't access the right talent - this situation is a national scandal that needs urgent attention.

It is not surprising that we have seen a deluge of reports flagging and reiterating this crisis, including an Education Select Committee inquiry and an Ofsted review. Since funding to the advice and guidance service Connexions was axed the responsibility lies with teachers. But are they really best placed to provide the advice students need?

Facing this criticism, in a recent select committee session, Michael Gove revealed his thoughts on this for the first time. However, he dismissed the need for 'a cadre of careers advisers' and has said more should be done to engage employers with schools.

While the Education Secretary is right about building closer links between schools and employers in delivering careers advice, it is still teachers who are actually responsible for advising pupils. And while they are experts in teaching and learning, can we - and should we - really expect them to be experts in careers across a huge range of industries? Worryingly, research by Pearson College has revealed the majority of teachers do not feel adequately supported in delivering this insight. This research has identified a large gap in the delivery of careers advice.

Teachers have been put in an impossible position. They have been made responsible for advising students on an issue that they do not have sufficient experience or insight. In our recent survey of teachers, over half said that previous experience of business is important to delivering careers advice - yet a majority said they had little or no experience of business and industry.

Even with the best of intentions, teachers are not specialists in the labour market. A teacher who has spent the last 10 years in the classroom will not be aware of all the opportunities available to young people. Will they be confident enough to lay out the growing opportunities in the new and emerging industries, such as the digital and creative sector?

We desperately need to provide children with the information they need to make informed choices on their future career and not leave this to chance or pot luck. If you think about it, really good careers advice needs to include three things: exposure to the very wide range of industries that exists today (only some of which have featured in a TV series), information on industries that are growing (students need to know where there are real jobs), and advice on the qualifications and experience they need to secure good jobs with great prospects. If we don't align this advice with what is really happening in the business world then we will be setting up the younger generation for failure instead of inspiring them towards success.

Teachers on their own can't possibly provide all of this. And they know it. Three quarters of teachers surveyed (75%) stated they would like more support from businesses in offering careers advice to students. Indeed, this is the only way to tackle the current crisis in careers advice.

Business needs to engage in their local communities and work with schools more directly. However, this must be more than getting business people in to give the occasional talk. Business should offer placements and deliver workshops - to provide the much needed insight into the skills that young people need. We should also be working with them to create innovative ways of providing resources, information and case studies.

At Pearson College we have developed a network of relationships with leading businesses, which design and actively deliver our degrees to provide our students with an understanding of what is required to succeed in the workplace. I have seen first-hand how business can inspire, motivate and create exciting opportunities for my students. And I have also seen how committed many businesses are to the education and development of young people - and not just their own employees.

Business partnerships are invaluable and more should be done to reach people at a younger age. This is what schools need and what teachers are calling for.