This week the Education Committee began gathering oral evidence for its inquiry into Careers Advice for Young People. The inquiry is likely to have stemmed from the government's decision to give the responsibility of delivering careers advice to schools, and making it compulsory only for Key Stage 4 (Years 9-11, ages 14-16). In addition, the statutory guidance supplied to schools significantly lacks any real direction.
It seems then that in its current state careers advice for young people is simply too little, too late.
Too late in that it is only offered to those aged between 14 and 16. With young people now making more and more complex choices, not only on subjects but decisions to attend state-schools, Academies, Studio Schools or University Technical Colleges, impartial, high quality advice is needed at an earlier age so that young people can make informed decisions about their future.
EEF recommends that focused, informed careers advice should begin at Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14) as the choices listed above are made towards the end of this Key Stage. It should then play a more prominent and advanced role at Key Stage 4 (ages 14-16) when young people are making decisions about choosing an academic or vocational pathway or a combination of the two.
But even in the early years, such as Key Stage 2, we should begin to raise awareness through what could be termed ‘careers inspiration'. This would be a light touch approach that raises a general awareness amongst pupils to the various opportunities they have moving through subsequent Key Stages.
So that's addressing the too late, what about the too little?
Fundamental to the success of careers advice is face-to-face provision and a clear differentiation between the provision of information, which is all too often sourced from the internet, and tailored advice from an adviser.
Personal advice is now only delivered to those aged 19 and over through the National Careers Service. The face-to-face element for those aged 18 and under then is dependent on the delivery of advice through the schools themselves.
This doesn't have to involve a single teacher taking sole responsibility of delivering careers advice to young people with knowledge of every possible career available. It could instead entail bringing local employers into schools to talk about their own jobs and talking through the choices they made to get to where they are now.
Wanting to end on a positive note, I will then make a call to both businesses and schools to work better together. Let's start taking advantage of the schemes available to help broker this relationship, Primary Engineer, Inspiring the Future and Speakers for Schools, to name a few, and perhaps we can turn things round and make careers advice a success.
Read our submission to the Education Committee here.