A fresh look at careers guidance

04 Feb 2014

Young people could be missing out on exciting careers opportunities by failing to receive the best possible careers advice from those that they consult. Research by the Association of Colleges in partnership with The Skills Show, the UK’s largest skills and careers event for young people, shows 70% of young people turn to parents and 57% to teachers for careers advice, yet these may not be the best informed groups to talk to about their potential futures.

The majority of those questioned expressed a desire to become doctors, teachers or work in the uniformed services when they grow up, and these traditional choices, which also mirror some ingrained gender stereotypes, may be a reflection of those they ask for information and advice about work. Most of those surveyed seem unaware of the new careers opportunities that will be the norm when they enter the job market.

The survey of 2,000 children (aged 11 to 16) showed nearly half of 14 to 16-year-olds do not feel well-informed about the jobs market and may be getting out-of-date careers advice from parents and teachers, which may be exacerbating the skills gap.
AoC’s research, funded by The Skills Show and conducted by growth consultancy company FreshMinds, aimed to examine children’s career aspirations, who influences their decisions and the careers advice they receive at different key stages of their education.

The main findings are:

  • 72% believe they know what they want to do when they grow up and feel positive about their prospects – but this positivity diminishes (from 68% to 63%) as they get older and their confidence they can do any job they want also decreases (from 63% to 52%)
  • Overall 49% feel they are well-informed about the jobs that are available – as children get older this rises to 54% (from 45% in Year 7 and 8)
  • Overall 57% expect to go to university with 53% planning to go to college – significantly more girls than boys want to go to university (60% .v. 53%) or to college (55% .v. 51%)
  • Pupils on free school meals (FSM) were far less likely to expect to go to university than those not on FSM (46% .v. 60%)
  • Awareness or interest in pursuing an apprenticeship is low at 14% overall and boys (17%) were more likely to choose this option than girls (12%)
  • By Years 10/11, 43% prefer professional to vocational jobs (32%) with girls 47% more likely to choose a professional career

Michele Sutton, AoC President, said: “Many of the top jobs available in 2014, such as those in the emerging sectors like energy renewables, IT and the computer games industry, didn’t even exist a decade ago ¹. Our research suggests parents and teachers are struggling to keep up-to-date with current and future work trends and may be unwittingly stifling young people’s aspirations and hampering their educational choices through a lack of contemporary information.

“If young people are predominately relying on parents and teachers with limited experience of the rapidly changing world of work and careers, then they are making their educational choices blind-folded.

These findings back-up the results of earlier research ² AoC commissioned which showed parents and teachers felt out of their depth when advising young people about work and the skills and qualifications needed and that few pupils could name a post-GCSE qualification other than A Levels.

Michele Sutton added: “This demonstrates a lot more work remains to be done with schools, colleges, employers, Government and its agencies working better together to ensure our children receive current, high-quality, relevant information and guidance about the jobs market they will enter.”

Ross Maloney, Chief Executive of The Skills Show, said: “The new research clearly demonstrates the need for young people to be made aware of, and experience for themselves, the widest possible range of career choices, not just those that their parents or teachers may be familiar and comfortable with. We believe that it is vital for young people to be inspired to explore new skills and discover opportunities with which to shape their futures, and use experiential careers models to help them find what they are good at and what they enjoy.

“To ensure that young people, and their parents and teachers, are able to investigate the widest possible range of career opportunities available to them, while receiving advice and guidance from industry experts, we have extended our offer to create The Skills Show Experience, a programme of 220 local events, which will reach more than 200,000 young people. Trialled on a smaller scale in 2012, this programme has already been labelled as a ‘game changer’ by local providers, and will provide support to schools, colleges and local communities in filling gaps in careers education, while inspiring young people to take part to enable them to make an informed choice.”

The research findings are set against a worrying backdrop of high youth unemployment, cuts to local authority funding for careers advice and the concerns raised last year by the Education Select Committee ³ and by Ofsted ? into the quality of the advice given in schools.

These concerns prompted AoC to launch their Careers Guidance: Guaranteed ? campaign for all young people to have access to careers advice on post-14 education, employment and training options. It calls for better access, accountability, informed choice and investment to improve careers information, advice and guidance.

Young people need accurate, impartial and detailed advice at key stages in their education to help them choose the right courses and get the training and education they need to secure fulfilling employment. The campaign calls for clarity about all the options open to young people, including further and higher education, apprenticeships and traineeships, and the full range of providers, including sixth form colleges and colleges.

Today’s survey is the first stage of research commissioned by AoC to underpin this campaign and is funded by The Skills Show. It was designed to look at the careers awareness, aspirations and key influencers for children in Years 7, 8, 10 and 11. AoC works closely with The Skills Show on best practice around careers guidance.

The second stage of the careers guidance research project begins this month (February 2014) with a series of workshops to be held in London, Middlesbrough and Weymouth to examine the impact of local choices, influences and perceptions on the career choices of young people. These will involve students, parents and teachers.


Notes to Editors

Freshminds Summary Report.pdf (PDF,617.8 KB)

The Skills Show provides young people with opportunities to discover what they are good at and what they enjoy, through interactive activities and experiences which help to shape their futures and transform their lives. Supported by the Skills Funding Agency and the European Social Fund as Funding Partners, and City & Guilds, the Edge Foundation and Premier Colleges as Premier Sponsors, The Skills Show is also linked to the National Apprenticeship Service and the National Careers Service. The organisation’s flagship event takes place at the NEC Birmingham from 13-15 November 2014. Young people, parents, teachers and anyone else with an interest can find the details of The Skills Show Experience and their nearest local event on the Skills Show website.

FreshMinds is an award-winning growth consultancy. Fusing research, predictive data analytics and digital strategy development, FreshMinds offers a unique approach to understanding and engaging consumers in the digital era. Using agile techniques, FreshMinds helps clients to uncover new markets, rapidly iterate and develop product propositions, and devise effective marketing strategies and communications that drive profitable growth in the face of increasing disruption in their markets.

¹ Quality, Choice and Aspiration: a strategy for young people’s information, advice and guidance, Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2009.

² In November 2012 AoC commissioned independent research which found that school teachers and parents were struggling to give the right advice to prepare young people for the world of work

In September 2011 AoC research showed considerable confusion among young people about their post-GCSE options

³ The Education Select Committee’s report on careers guidance in schools expressed concern about the quality of delivery and AoC’s response is on our newsroom.

  • AoC’s response to Ofsted’s report on careers guidance in schools, Going in the right direction?, can be found on our newsroom pages.
  • AoC launched the Careers Guidance: Guaranteed campaign in September 2013 and more information is available on our dedicated campaign page.