A survey of 130 secondary schools found that many activities contribute poorly to pupils' understanding of work and careers. Almost all schools organised work experience but teachers rated its effectiveness at only 55 per cent.
Presentation skills and mock interviews were seen as the most useful activities, but they involved fewer than one pupil in three between fourth form and upper sixth. Next best came enterprise awareness and insight days for specific careers, but these covered only 13-17 per cent of students.
Three-quarters of schools invited employers to visit them but "concerns about employer preparation and communication skills resulted in only a 33 per cent effectiveness score," according to NIBEP.
Visits to workplaces were rated as 29 per cent effective. Discussions with pupils suggested they are valuable for the small number who experience them. "However, organisation of such visits and ensuring that employers understand what is required is a major problem."
Worst of all were careers conventions, assessed as only 25 per cent effective. "The main problem seems to be that a lack of co-ordination and preparation can reduce a potentially very effective career learning tool to a leaflet collection day," the report says.
NIBEP, which has 17 partnerships in Northern Ireland, makes detailed recommendations to improve careers work and pupils' skills. "It is their initiative that will deliver the competitiveness of our future industrial base," said NIBEP's chairman, Steve Costello.