Careers Advice in Schools Needs a Revolution: Let's Hope the Government Are on the Same Page

30/06/2016 16:08 | Updated 30 June 2016

Careers advice and work experience opportunities offered to young people as they progress through the school system have been ineffective for decades. With the issue receiving fragmented interest from successive Governments, schools have been ill equipped to provide the appropriate balance of guidance and experience that our young people need. As a result young people are leaving school with insufficient knowledge of career options, and worse, without the skills employers need most. Now is the time for this to change.

To this day, I am staggered by the lack of meaningful work experience opportunities presented to secondary school students. So why is this? Evidence points to a lack of coordination between schools and local employers. Ofsted did an evaluation of this in 2012 and found existing links between careers guidance and local employment opportunities were incredibly weak. More recently, the 2015 CBI and Person's Education and Skills Survey found more than 75% of UK businesses feel the quality of careers advice is not good enough to help young people make informed decisions about their future career. Evidently, the issue is long standing and systemic.

This issue can only be solved through collaboration. Educators and employers must have an open dialogue and work together to give young people the skills and insights they need to enter the world of work. It is for this reason that I set up the charity Believe in Young People (BiYP) in 2012. Our entire service is shaped around bringing together schools and local employers to deliver employer-led careers advice, and also to guarantee students structured, meaningful work experience.

To make our proposition attractive to schools, employers, parents and young people it needed to accurately measure progress. Our digital platform takes each young person on a personal journey to gather the skills they need for employment. The platform enables young people to hone the skills employers need around their standard curricular learning. To enhance these skills further, they also gain valuable work experience with a local employer, giving them the necessary skills, behaviors and knowledge to succeed in the workplace. Employability skills testing and assessment is carried out before and following work experience by teachers, employers and the learners so that progress is measured and understood. Our collaborative approach has taken 3,000 young people through meaningful work experience placements and helped them find work.

For this success to be replicated across the country, there needs to be Government support and we look forward to the launch of their Careers Strategy. In December 2015, the Education and Childcare Minister, Sam Gyimah outlined that the strategy would be published within weeks. Then in January David Cameron promised to spend £70million on the Careers Strategy over the current Parliament. These are positive steps, but six months has passed now and no strategy has been published.

We know the Careers Strategy will be implemented nationally in partnership with the Careers and Education Company, which will support schools in providing work experience through a Careers and Education Fund and an Enterprise Adviser Network. Whilst this is welcome news for us, these bodies have a great deal to achieve. Primarily, they need to change the perception of careers guidance within schools, especially among teachers, who have traditionally promoted higher education to students as the best route into employment. Secondly, the Enterprise Advisor Network should create long lasting relationships between schools and local employers, which will provide generations with the structured and meaningful work experience so gravely needed. We would like the government to consider other radical options, such as legislating for the provision of mandatory structured work experience placements for all secondary school students.

The new Careers Strategy has the opportunity to revolutionise approaches to careers guidance in schools and improve the access young people have to relevant work experience. We are nervous that as we approach the next academic year, the strategy still hasn't been published. One thing we do know, when it is published, it's implementation will require genuine collaboration between schools, employers and government bodies if we're to tackle the challenges facing youth employment in this country.