Careers website mocked for telling top pupils to become chimney sweeps

An online careers service has been criticised after it said academically talented pupils should sweep chimneys for a living

Emma Seith

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An online careers advice service has been ridiculed after an academically gifted 13-year-old was reportedly advised to consider a career as a chimney sweep or a bodyguard.

My World of Work – developed by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) – was launched in 2011 by MSP Dr Alasdair Allan, who described it as a “world-leading careers service”.

However, the usefulness of the Scottish government website has come under the spotlight after a teenager in Fife – in the top set for maths – was advised to consider pursuing a career as a chimney sweep, acupuncturist, bodyguard or hairdresser.

The father of the girl, who attends Bell Baxter High in Cupar, told The Courier newspaper: “In essence, either the website was downgrading her aspirations or was churning out stock results – not a great way to develop Scotland’s young work force.

“Three of her female top maths set friends also got chimney sweep. She said the whole class was laughing at their results.”

It is not the first time the website has hit the headlines. Careers advisers criticised My World of Work back in 2013 when the careers advice service was redesigned to focus on online delivery. They said the site was difficult to navigate, fraught with technical problems and provided information without guidance.

'The authorities must review this website'

Later that year researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that fewer than half of the 1,000 S4 pupils they surveyed had used My World of Work beyond an introduction or registration by March of their fourth year.

Since then, the site has been revamped and made easier to use.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “Good, solid careers advice should be based on the analysis of educational performance, work or voluntary experience, an assessment of the personality but also an intelligent human assessment of the person.

“The authorities need to review this website.”

An SDS spokesman said: “The My World of Work interest tool is designed to be a very simple and engaging exercise aimed at stimulating discussion around many and varied careers. Suggestions presented by the tool will vary depending on the amount and quality of information provided by the user.

“SDS always advocates that important decisions around subject choice should involve an in-depth face-to-face engagement with a trained careers adviser. That is why the Scottish government has invested additional funds enabling the provision of careers advice earlier in school.”

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for TES Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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