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A few bum steers on new careers

Fiona Blacke's letter ("Connexions offers best guidance yet" TES, March 5) is prejudiced, insensitive and wrong.

Young people are not getting better guidance than in the past. There are fewer staff, endless targets and statistical returns which take advisers away from contact with young people. There is deliberate reliance on advice being offered by schools, colleges and training providers which make no pretence of impartiality.

Many personal advisers in the Connexions service have limited training compared with careers staff, yet they must deal with more diverse issues.

Clients cannot tell how well-informed advisers are. Not all services provide a confidential interview space. and resources are aimed chiefly at those at risk, so most get only a superficial service.

Ms Blacke's only excuse could be a scant knowledge of provision prior to 2002. Before privatisation, careers offices were pleasant, often purpose-built and had staff with the means to work with young people of all abilities. Staff also had time to liaise with other agencies to offer support for those with problems.

Financial strain and unrealistic targets have damaged provision, and further massive cuts are threatened.

The holistic approach adopted by Connexions is promising, but the need for in-depth guidance by specialists who understand employment trends, the local economy, further and higher education and careers theory has never been greater.

People need help to make the right choices and to prepare for a rapidly changing world, and money must be found to provide that support.

Sue James

57 Roundway

Waterlooville, Hants

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