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Shine a light on careers advice

I had a "Woody Allen moment" when I read last week's TESS article on career guidance (Careers `traffic light' code halts the personal touch). It reminded me of the joke from Annie Hall about the two old ladies in a restaurant. One says: "The food is terrible here" and the other responds: "Yes, and the portions are so small".

The parallel is that all the relevant research tells us that careers advisers, despite their knowledge, skills and effort, come behind parents, teachers and peers in influencing career choices.

I have been involved with Skills Development Scotland in looking at their provision in the light of curricular and other changes, and the research is equally clear that career advice has different impacts on different young people.

Not surprisingly, the highest impact comes for those who have fewest sources of support. It makes sense to prioritise the resources that we have towards those who will benefit from them.

We need to recognise that people starting work now are more likely to move between jobs and professions than ever before. They need the resources to manage their careers, not just to choose them.

Skills Development Scotland has responded to this and created a very good resource in My World of Work to support young people over a far longer period than any personal interview.

It is appealing and engaging and, equally importantly, supports the work that SDS has been doing to develop career management skills.

This is not a transfer of work from specialist advisers to teachers. The skills involved in careers management are embedded in the curriculum, notably, in the Excellence Group Report on Higher Order Skills. They involve the analysis of opportunities, the evaluation of outcomes and consequences, and the ability to make judgements based on that.

The ambition of Curriculum for Excellence was to enable young people to control their own lives, be aware of their wider role in society and be successful for themselves and for others. It was certainly not aimed at creating a culture of dependency where all young people were waiting for the critical intervention of a professional careers adviser before they could make decisions about their intentions.

We need to make choices about how we prioritise public spending and it would be interesting to know what critics would cut to defend the entitlement to a face-to-face interview for all young people.

David Cameron, The Real David Cameron Ltd, Fife.

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