In recent years, there has been considerable investment in vocational qualifications and career opportunities for young people – including the introduction of higher apprenticeships and a new technical baccalaureate – that will provide an alternative career path for 16-19 year olds.
However there is still much to be done to make sure that young people have access to impartial advice and guidance to help them make informed decisions about their future. Since 2011, schools have had responsibility for providing this, with no additional funding to do so. In addition there is no longer a legal requirement for schools to provide opportunities for work-related learning such as work experience.
This means young people are getting very different experiences of advice and guidance. Some schools are buying in the services of careers advisers (although often less than was formerly provided by the local education authority) and providing quality work experience opportunities for their pupils. Others may be relying on online materials, which have their place but cannot replace face-to-face, independent advice and guidance.
And it’s not just young people who need support. Research by Edge shows that parents and teachers are key influencers of young people, and their knowledge isn’t always as up-to-date as it could be. Jan Hodges, their CEO, said:
“In the case of apprenticeships, for example, there is sometimes a perception that they are rather messy jobs, concentrated in the traditional craft areas, and mainly for boys. In reality, however, high-quality apprenticeship opportunities exist in most employment sectors, and that’s a message we really need to get out there.”
“What we’d really like to see is a minimum entitlement offer for careers advice and guidance for all young people, regardless of the school they attend, which is embedded in the curriculum. Careers education should not be a one-off conversation that happens at a certain point in a young person’s school career. It needs to be an ongoing dialogue, in which information and opportunities are discussed at every stage of their education.”