The study showed that demand for information, advice and guidance (IAG) is growing, and found that 28 per cent of adults who needed advice about education, training and jobs in the past three years had not received it.
Such unmet demand was highest among unemployed adults, those under 20 and members of minority communities. The principal reason people gave for not using IAG services was that they did not know where to obtain them.
The study, based on research by Morithat included interviews with 1,000 adults and a survey of 300 users of advice services, also found that employers are the most common source of information, advice and guidance. More than one-third of users got their advice from their employer. Second on the list of sources were colleges, professional people and Jobcentres. Some 93 per cent of those who actually made it through the doors of advice centres said they were satisfied with the help they received, which suggests that the problem is chiefly one of access.
Tim Glass, chief executive of the Guidance Council, said: "Many surprising findings are thrown up by this report - some hugely encouraging, others less so. They clearly expose what needs to be done to improve guidance services to those who most need them."
In March, Malcolm Wicks, the lifelong learning minister, announced an extra pound;52 million for information services for adults over the next three years, including a new pound;5m pilot scheme that will offer free guidance to those living in disadvantaged communities.
The study found that people wanted knowledgeable and friendly staff, a drop-in system rather than appointments, more flexible opening hours, easily ccessible venues and childcare facilities. It recommended that more guidance be encouraged among disadvantaged groups, particularly in social class C2DE (manual workers), the unemployed, disabled adults and the over-45s. These groups find it harder to gain access to information services and have a much more negative image of them, the study concluded.
The report also recommended that more individual counselling should be offered and that the benefits of the available services should be marketed more effectively.
Cathy Bereznicki, chair of the Guidance Council steering group for the research, said: "What can be demonstrated to employers is that good guidance can help an employee to see their place in an organisation in a far more efficient and effective way."
A CBI spokeswoman said that there has been an increase in firms offering advice and guidance as part of employees' recruitment and retention packages, but she added that there remains a vacuum in the provision of IAG for highly qualified people who change jobs regularly.
"It's a very live growth area - and for the more highly skilled it's going to become more and more of an issue," the spokeswoman said.
THOSE WHO MISS OUT
40% of those who say their demand for Information, Advice and Guidance is unmet are aged 16-19.
45% of the unemployed say such demands are not met. For those in full time work, the figure is 27%; for part-timers, 25% .
Among white IAG users, 27% complain that the service does not meed their needs, compared with 38% of those from minority communities.
For those from professional or managerial backgrounds, 27% express dissatisfaction, compared with 31% from semi-skilled, unskilled and those from the lowest income groups.
Of those with complaints about IAG, 38% have used the service in the past three years compared with 16% of non-users.