Careers advice is a 'national scandal', warns NUS

New research reveals changing priorities of students when choosing a college course, as concerns over careers advice mount

Julia Belgutay

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The NUS students’ union has described the state of careers advice as a “national scandal”, as a new survey lifts the lid on the factors that influence FE students’ career choices.

The research, carried out by YouGov and shared exclusively with TES, shows that for many students, advice from school tutors and careers experts does little to sway them in decisions about their future careers.

The survey, which asked students what the most important factors were when they were choosing a college, also reveals that the issues of employability and the financial assistance available at institutions have become significantly more important.

Proximity to home and course reputation are among the most-cited issues, although the significance of these factors has fallen. More than a quarter of those who took part in the research, commissioned by WPM Education, said that employability was one of the most important factors for them. This compares with only a fifth in 2015. The proportion citing financial assistance as one of the most important factors rose from 10 per cent to 17 per cent.

The figures show that school tutors and careers advisers were “very” or “moderately” important to only a third of FE students when choosing their current education institution. Almost 18 per cent said tutors and advisers didn’t influence their decision-making at all.

‘Funnelled into rigid pathways’

The findings of the survey, involving more than 760 FE students, were released as shadow FE and skills minister Gordon Marsden raised concerns about the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC), the new organisation tasked with improving careers advice across the country. He said that the government’s funding commitment for the CEC was inadequate: “It is partly a question of logistics and also a question of putting in place a strategic approach: £70 million sounds like a lot of money, but when that is over four years, when you have only got 18 people full-time employed to take the strategy forward, it is concerning.” He added that there was “no clarity at all” on what the CEC’s strategy and target audience were.

His wider concerns about careers advice were echoed by Shakira Martin, NUS vice-president for FE. She told TES: “NUS believes the current state of information, advice and guidance (IAG) is a national scandal. Today’s education system funnels young people into rigid pathways too early, and with recent reforms to A levels and cuts to the budget for 18-year-olds, excellent careers IAG is vital.”

David Byrne, principal of Barnet and Southgate College, said that he believed school-based IAG was “at best patchy, and often not in tune with local or regional economic opportunities”.

CEC chief executive Claudia Harris told TES that the organisation was set up to “join the dots in careers and enterprise provision”. She added: “In what can be a confusing landscape, we use targeted evidence and interventions to make it easier for schools, colleges, employers and careers and enterprise providers to work effectively together to support young people. By working in partnership with others, we are able to significantly amplify our reach.”

This is an edited version of an article from the 22 April edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To subscribe, click here.  TES Further Education subscription packages are available here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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