Careers advice? Keep it local, experts argue

Set up `hubs' to dispense information on jobs in the area, says AoC

Colleges are putting pressure on the government to transform the way in which careers advice is delivered in England amid concerns that students are being "short-changed".

The Association of Colleges (AoC) launched a campaign today calling for the creation of new careers "hubs" based in colleges, universities or even high-street shop units that could take over responsibility for delivering careers advice.

The new advice points would be run by the country's 39 existing local enterprise partnerships (LEPs). These organisations bring councils and local businesses together to decide the economic priorities for an area.

Schools have had a duty to secure independent advice for students since the government stopped funding the local authority-run Connexions service in 2012. However, they have not received any extra funding to do so.

The AoC said that many students were not being given the right information at the right time, and were effectively being "short-changed", although it added that schools were not to blame. It argued that something had to change to stop future generations from becoming Neets (not in education, employment or training).

Joy Mercer, director of policy at the AoC, said that LEPs were ideally placed to lead and fund the hubs, working together with schools, colleges, universities, local authorities, Jobcentre Plus and the National Careers Service. Resources and funding in each of those institutions could be "corralled" and put to better use in a single central body, she added.

"Neither parents nor school teachers know enough about the next generation of jobs and specifically the government's current push towards apprenticeships, and as a result young people are still choosing very traditional jobs," she said.

"LEPs would be able to make sure the career hubs carry up-to-date information about the local job market and the qualifications and skills required to work in local industries.

"We know that young people want hands-on work experience, not just lessons in a classroom."

A number of reports and surveys in the past year have been critical of the quality of school-delivered careers advice.

Last September, Ofsted found that more than three-quarters of secondary schools in England were failing to give their students quality careers advice, with little time being devoted to promoting vocational training and apprenticeships.

In January, a poll by the CBI and Barclays revealed that 93 per cent of young people felt they were not being given the right information to make informed career choices (bit.lyCBICareersReport).

Meanwhile, the National Audit Office said last week that if schools did not adopt the government's "clear and ambitious agenda" for careers advice and Ofsted reports remained critical, the government should be ready to intervene directly.

MPs are so concerned about the situation that the House of Commons' Education Select Committee has launched a follow-up to its January 2013 inquiry into careers advice in schools.

Rob Wall, head of education and employment policy for the CBI, told TES that it supported the principle behind the AoC's campaign. "We agree careers provision in schools is very poor and that it needs to be better," he said. "However, we would be less prescriptive than the AoC about how young people access [better advice]. Whatever provision is put in place needs to be informed by the labour market."

Mr Wall said that the CBI would like to see local "brokers" with responsibility for building relationships between educators and employers.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "As part of our reforms, the National Careers Service will work with local partners, including LEPs and school and employer groups, to prepare young people for the world of work.

"We believe that employers have a key role to play in opening young people's eyes to the broad range of opportunities available to them.

"Figures show that the number of 16- to 24-year-olds who were Neet is at the lowest comparable level since 2005 and the important role played by the National Careers Service continues to have an impact."

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