Major employer attacks careers advice 'lottery'

Darren Evans

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Careers advice in England's schools needs a “radical shake-up” if the government is to tackle the growing skills gap, an employer has warned.

In a 20-page report published today, NG Bailey, one of the UK’s biggest building services companies, recommends reinstating funding for school careers guidance.

Since 2012, responsibility for sourcing and funding careers advice for pupils in England has rested with schools rather than the government and local authorities.

NG Bailey’s report says that, as a result, whether pupils get good-quality careers advice or not is now a "lottery".

It claims that this lack of face-to-face careers advice means that millions of pupils are not being told about the full range of academic and vocational options available to them.

It also proposes setting up a £30-million pilot scheme involving 500 schools to implement the eight benchmarks proposed by Sir John Holman last year.

Cal Bailey, the company’s sustainability director, said: “Tackling our growing skills gaps has to be a priority for the government, and this has to start in our schools.

“We have a collective duty to ensure that our young people are given the right level of support to help them into fulfilling and sustainable careers.

“Politicians, civil servants and educationalists need to work with the business community to make the changes that we all believe are necessary.

“Around half of all school pupils don’t go to university, so focusing advice on academic routes rather than vocational ones risks damaging the futures of millions of young people.”

The report, which NG Bailey hopes will encourage cross-industry discussions, identifies a number of other areas for improvement, including stronger guidance from the Department for Education (DfE), closer collaboration between the DfE and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and better promotion of vocational routes including apprenticeships by schools.

It is the latest in a long series of critical reports calling for better careers advice and guidance in schools.

The Department for Education is in the process of setting up a new, employer-backed Careers and Enterprise Company for schools, to transform the provision of careers education and advice and inspire pupils about the opportunities offered by the world of work.

It was also announced today that the chief executive of the Careers and Enterprise Company will be Claudia Harris. She was previously a partner in the London office of McKinsey and Company, where she co-led their work on talent and skills.

"There are many excellent examples of schools and employers working together today but the system overall does not yet work well enough and vacancies continue to co-exist with youth unemployment," she said. “Our role is to connect schools to employers across the country in particular in places where those connections are weak.

"One area of focus is helping schools to create links with small and medium-sized employers and the self-employed given that these smaller organisations now account for the majority of employment in the UK. We will back these connections with an evidence base showing what activities are most effective in supporting positive outcomes for young people.” 

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