All teachers should be offering careers advice rather than leaving it in the hands of specialists, according to one of the UK’s most successful businessmen.
Oil and gas tycoon Sir Ian Wood told a Scottish parliamentary committee today that careers advice is “every bit as important as the other things they do as a teacher”.
Sir Ian, who in 2014 published a landmark report designed to better prepare young people for work, told MSPs that careers advice should be “not just left to the careers advisor, or the careers teachers or whatever the key person is”.
He said: “What we’ve got to do is get across to the people running the schools, [is that] this employability issue is one of the most important things that they can do – it’s every bit as important as the other things they do as a teacher.”
He had seen “huge variation in the quality of careers advice – some of it clearly fell short” but also recognised that “it’s actually a very difficult thing to do”.
Sir Ian said that, while some schools had “a good package” of careers advice, “they tended to be [in] the less disadvantaged areas”, schools where poverty was a greater factor did not see “the same kind of support from parents and others” who could “provide insight into some of the career opportunities”.
However, Sir Ian also found that careers advice tended to focus more on students who struggled at school.
“We got a sense in most schools that the really capable kids were just left with a computer, but special attention was given to kids that needed some help,” said Sir Ian, adding that he had seen students receive “more advice on the technicality of working a computer than…insight into their career choices”.
He told the Education and Skills Committee that careers advice should involve some practical experience of work, and involve experts coming to school and talk with students about their futures. “Sitting behind a computer isn’t enough at all, frankly,” he said.
Sir Ian added: “We need to keep improving careers advice, we need to keep getting more work experience [for students], but there’s definitely not a magic bullet for this.”
In January, an update was provided on progress since Sir Ian’s landmark 2014 report, Education for All!, which led to the seven-year Developing the Young Workforce programme. It found that vocational education was becoming more common in Scottish schools, although school-based vocational courses remained relatively rare and, in some parts of the country, were under threat from budget cuts.
In May, a parliamentary report based on a survey of nearly 900 young people found many complaining that schools put them under pressure to go to university and neglected other career and education options – a finding disputed by the Scottish Guidance Association.