How can career advice for young people be improved?

With youth unemployment at an all time high, The Youth Agenda asks whether more careers advice should be offered in schools, what age it should start at and who should be responsible for delivering it. 

The Youth Agenda interviews with Simon Hughes MP (Deputy Leader of The Liberal Democrats), Sarah Wallbank of YES! Futures and Chris Wilford, REC Policy Advisor.

Existing services and recommendations

Between the ages of 13 and 16, young people think about decisions which will impact on their future finances, whether choosing higher education, leaving school at 16 and going to work, or going into apprenticeship or training.

They are expected to make these decisions at the same time as taking into account future earnings, money management during their courses and, in the case of higher education, knowledge about the system for paying for their degree.

The amount spent on job advice services for teenagers in England has been cut by more than £100m a year since 2008. Investment has also been taken away from Connexions, the Council funded service giving job, training and financial advice to teenagers. However, the Hughes Report, commissioned by the government earlier this year, recommends the opposite of what is happening.

In it, Simon Hughes MP, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, says: “The government should act urgently to guarantee face to face careers advice for all young people in schools.” 

The report recommends that schools have careers events as early as Primary School, at ages 10-11, and work experience available from the age of 14. It also suggests that the majority of national scholarships should be allocated to non-fee-paying English schools and colleges. 

The report goes on to say that ‘students between the ages of 14 and 16 should be trained in basic financial management’ in order to prepare them for adult life generally and also for education, training and work in particular.

Getting your choices right

The Youth Agenda interviewed Simon Hughes, to get his views in person. He believes the starting age for careers advice should be ‘no later than Year 10’ and that work experience should be no later than 14. He says:

“When youngsters are 14 … you also need to start the careers advice – not to push people into making a final decision but so that you don’t make choices that in the end were the wrong choices about which subjects to keep.”

Simon also believes that secondary school pupils should have a combination of resources, including mentoring, independent careers advice, and employers and businesses regularly going into schools.

In the Hughes Report, he says:

“If we want the best futures for our children and adults and consider social mobility, widening participation and access to further and higher education a priority then everybody must play their role.”

The Youth Agenda interviews Simon Hughes MP, Deputy Leader of The Liberal Democrats

The Youth Agenda also interviewed Sarah Wallbank of YES! Futures, a social enterprise that provides workshops, long-term school programmes and one-on-one mentor guidance for 11-18-year-olds.

Relating career advice into every subject

Sarah believes that careers advice needs to start a lot earlier, in Year 7. She says it’s important to talk about how subjects relate to actual jobs, building careers advice into everyday lessons.

However, Sarah says that although young people generally say they think schools should be the institutions providing careers advice, it’s not fair to expect teachers, who already have an extremely demanding workload, to do so much extra in terms of careers advice.

On the other hand, she says teachers know their students best and are best placed to advise them on the right career path to take.

The Youth Agenda interviews Sarah Wallbank, Founder of YES! Futures

Chris Wilford, Policy and PR Advisor at The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), thinks the removal of careers advice from schools is a bad idea. He also thinks the current system of careers advice in schools is inadequate. He says:

“There is a fundamental disconnect between the choices you make academically now and where you’re going to be 10-15 years later in the labour market.”
Local businesses in local schools

Chris strongly believes that businesses should be more involved with schools, saying ‘business has a real role to play’.

However, some might argue that careers advice from businesses will not be impartial. It’s also in the interests of businesses to tell young people what will be required of them as early as possible so they don’t have to spend so much money on training programs later on.

Gillian Econopouly, the REC’s Head of Policy, says:

“Whilst the Government’s proposals for an all-age careers service is a laudable long-term goal, simply leaving careers advice to individual schools without a proper framework risks re-inventing the youth employment problem for years to come.

“A structure is needed to embed careers advice within schools and make it easy for businesses to offer their support. Without proper attention, careers advice could fall by the wayside in the already-pressurised school environment, leaving young people unprepared for the world of work.”

The Youth Agenda interviews Chris Wilford, Policy Advisor to The REC


Related linksFor more information on the career advice available in schools and suggestions for improvements:

The Hughes Report – Recommendations for improving career prospects for young people (Pages 8-10 and 16-25)

YES! Futures – Free holiday programmes for 13 – 16 year olds

REC questions Employment Minister on careers advice in schools

Lib Dem’s policy on Combating Youth Unemployment: ‘Giving Young People a Future’ (Page 15)

BBC article about cuts to career advice for young people

DirectGov Career advisers for 13 – 19 year olds

Should schools encourage entrepreneurship?

Is the DWP’s Voluntary Work Experience scheme the right policy to follow?


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