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Employees cry out for careers advice

A study of the workplace shows workers - especially those with higher education qualifications - hold their skills in low regard. More than half of all workers think their colleagues are incompetent and need more training, according to a survey by colleges.

An ICM poll of more than 1,200 people for the Association of Colleges found many believed that staff in their company lacked the right skills for the job.

And nearly a third of workers admitted they were out of their depth and needed training, with people in possession of higher education qualifications more likely to be insecure about their skills levels than school-leavers.

When it came to criticism of colleagues, those in lower socio-economic groups were more worried about their colleagues' skills levels. But fewer than half of managers and professionals thought their workers needed more training.

The poll also revealed employees' widespread dissatisfaction with their choice of course while in education as well as the advice they had received at school and college.

Of those surveyed, 55 per cent said they would choose a different route if they had their time again. Those in lower socio-economic groups with lower educational achievement were more likely to wish they had taken other options.

Sue Dutton, acting chief executive of the AoC, said: "These fascinating findings indicate that the appetite for training among the British workforce runs in tandem with regret at missed opportunities.

"While employers and colleges could do more to respond to individuals' needs, an impartial and effective careers service is needed to make sure more people make the right training choices first time."

The survey came as the AoC prepares for its annual conference next week. It will examine the theme of "shaping futures" - both of the association itself, which is in a period of reform and in search of a new chief executive, and that of wider society and the economy.

Responses from the workers surveyed lend support to some aspects of the Government's agenda for adult skills from now until 2020, such as the commitment to providing free training in the workplace.

But the insecurity of university graduates also suggests a demand for skills from those who already have a high level of education and who are mostly excluded from the Train to Gain programme, the Government's main mechanism for improving the nation's adult skills.

The commitment of Lord Leitch's review - to provide a new adult careers advice service for England that offers a skills "health check" and identifies opportunities to improve job prospects and help with staying competitive in a changing job market - is likely to be welcomed by workers.

Lord Leitch also called for improvements in careers advice for under-18s, to address the concerns of those who felt they had been badly advised in the past.

Those surveyed were enthusiastic about the prospect of independent careers advice, with 57 per cent saying they would use such a service. Unskilled and manual workers - whose skills the Government most wants to increase - were most in need of independent advice, with 72 per cent saying they would make use of the service.

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