The use of websites such as My World of Work has a limited impact on young people's ability to manage their career choices, with students also needing face-to-face advice, researchers have warned.
A study from the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Educational Sociology, launched this week, says that students and staff value the online careers portal run by Skills Development Scotland, especially for information purposes.
However, staff and students also feel that it has to be used alongside other types of provision, according to the study by Cathy Howieson and Sheila Semple.
"You can't ask a question - the website doesn't know you and can't personalise what it is telling you to suit you," one principal teacher for student support told the researchers.
Using My World of Work provides some support and advice, the research shows. But having a session with a careers adviser or a teacher has more wide-ranging positive effects.
Crucially, the survey of more than 1,000 S4 students from 14 secondary schools across Scotland shows that less than a third had direct contact with careers advisers through interviews, and only 23 per cent attended clinic sessions with careers advisers. One in six students said they did not experience any careers advice, information and guidance activity in S4 apart from speaking to their family.
The study, What's the evidence? Comparing the impact of career websites and other career support, also reveals that less than half of young people had used My World of Work beyond an introduction or registration by March of their fourth year.
Young people who are uncertain about which career they may want to follow - arguably those most in need of support - are less likely to access the site than those with a clearer idea of what they want to do, it states.
The study was commissioned by Unison, which represents Skills Development Scotland (SDS) careers advice staff. In January, TESS reported that many Unison careers advisers felt that the new model, which is focused on online delivery, was inadequate.
Launching the research briefing this week, Derek Cheyne, secretary of Unison's SDS branch, said: "This research shows that while careers websites are of value, they are no substitute for expert face-to-face guidance. Young people face the worst jobs crisis in recent times and they need the best possible support to help them move from school to rewarding careers."
An SDS spokeswoman said the survey, undertaken at an early stage in the implementation of the new career services, supports the organisation's approach.
"Face-to-face support is vital for those who need most help to move into training or employment and these pupils are getting more intensive coaching than ever before," she said.
"All S4 to S6 pupils are getting group sessions on career planning, can access drop-in support and every pupil can use the full range of tools on My World of Work web service 247."
She said SDS's new work coaches now provide case management support for young people leaving school and at risk of not reaching a positive destination, and labour market information was shared with all leavers.
According to SDS, there were more than 230,000 registered users on My World of Work as of 16 June.
Only 10 per cent of students who used My World of Work had not used any other source.
"Indeed, the picture that emerges is one of the `active pupil' who is relatively engaged in hisher career planning and likely to make use of the different sources of (careers information, advice and guidance)," the research states.
Leaflets and books from the school careers library were used by 40 per cent of young people - showing that despite being digital natives, young people still value more traditional sources.
Three in four students discussed career plans with their teachers.
Photo credit: Alamy
Original headline: Careers websites are not always up to the job