Clearing the path for careers advice

By Nic Dakin MP on

Too often, many young people leave school unaware of all the choices there are when selecting the right route for their chosen career.  Apprenticeships, technical education and training, A Levels, university…the options available can be confusing and daunting for a 16-year-old ready to take the next steps towards their future job.

The underlying problem is that there is inadequate careers advice and guidance available. Previous research from the Association of Colleges has shown that young people primarily get their careers advice from their parents and teachers. With the greatest respect, they often do not know about the full range of opportunities available today. 

Last year, there was some movement from the previous Government on this issue, with the announcement of new legislation to ensure that schools would allow other providers of education and training to talk to their pupils about what is on offer.  Since then, however, these plans seem to have been shelved.

Today I will be announcing a Ten Minute Rule Bill in Parliament called the Careers Advice (Access to Schools) Bill, which seeks to ensure students at school are provided with high quality, impartial careers advice on all post-16 options. It will require schools in England to provide access to their premises and pupils for representatives from post-16 education establishments and others providing guidance on careers, training and courses.

Poor careers advice is an ongoing problem that has been identified by a range of organisations over the years.  It needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.  Last year, for example, the Commons Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy published its report Careers education, information, advice and guidance.  The report recommended that Government policy should incentivise schools to bring their careers provision up to a high standard and to hold them to account if they fail to do so, with a downgraded Ofsted rating if careers provision is not effective. Without incentives such as legislation or the threat of an Ofsted grade reduction, schools, particularly those with sixth forms, will continue to not provide the impartial and informed guidance needed for young people. Employment bodies such as the CBI stated in their 2015 Education and Skills survey that ‘careers guidance in schools is not good enough’, with more than three-quarters (77%) of businesses in the UK  saying that careers advice was not good enough to ensure young people made their most informed decisions about their future career options.

The recent Industrial Strategy Green Paper identifies some of the challenges around careers advice.  If the Government wish to see the aims of the strategy fulfilled, it is essential that careers guidance is at the centre of their approach.

The importance of reforming the current offer of careers advice is absolutely critical. For the Government to realise its ambition on apprenticeships and technical education, young people need to be made aware of all their options (whether academic, vocational or technical) post-16. To do otherwise, we are risking the next generation of workers.

Nic Dakin is the Labour Member of Parliament for Scunthorpe.