Careers guidance needs a lot of work, CBI argues

20th March 2015 at 00:00
Pupils must have `meaningful' contact with employers, it says

Experiencing the world of work should be made mandatory for all pupils throughout their school careers, the CBI has said.

The business lobbying organisation also recommended that the Scottish government should "set as an aspiration" that all young people have at least four "meaningful" contacts with the world of work while they are at secondary school.

The CBI's report, Delivering Excellence: a new approach for schools in Scotland, says that Scotland's commitment to providing universal access to work experience for young people is "strong in principle". But it is "clear that without the right structures in place, the commitment will not translate into effective experiences of the workplace delivered to all young people".

The business organisation cites research stating that work experience is most prevalent in S4, with the most common model being a one-week placement. This "places significant pressure on local businesses", the report says.

"Work experience needs to be seen as something bigger than a traditional week's placement in a business," it adds. "While high-quality placements can offer real value to young people, work experience - or work inspiration - can encompass much more: site visits, inspiring speakers, industry projects and competitions, shadowing and mentoring."

The report argues that work inspiration opportunities need to be broader, in order to provide pupils with "more chances to learn about different careers and understand the different routes and pathways available, including vocational routes".

The CBI also criticises careers guidance. A strong careers system and access to high-quality advice, informed by labour market data, is critical to ensuring young people are properly informed about opportunities, the report says. It continues: "Unfortunately, the current provision in Scotland is simply not up to the mark and businesses are seeing no sign of improvement."

Careers guidance should "help people navigate information in a way that leaves them inspired and sets them on a practical path to achieve their goals," the report argues. The "business voice" within Skills Development Scotland, which delivers careers advice in schools, is "not strong enough", it adds, concluding: "Online resources cannot replace the need for face-to-face advice."

West Dunbartonshire has already transformed the way it delivers work experience. Giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Education and Culture Committee last week on the implementation of the Wood Commission's recommendations, education director Terry Lanagan said the traditional one-week placement had been deemed "not fit for purpose".

"So we ripped [our approach] up completely, and we now offer every young person the opportunity of a bespoke work experience or work placement in the year that they leave school," he explained.

Instead of taking the form of a week-long block, work experience could be spread over weeks or even months if appropriate, Mr Lanagan added.

All final-year students meet with transition officers to ascertain what kind of work placement would suit them, and to find an appropriate employer to work with.

"One of the advantages is that by engaging with local employers, we are able to talk to them about what they can offer, because the full week is not easy for some employers, whereas half a day a week or work at weekends might suit them," Mr Lanagan said. So we have a whole range of models suited to the young person, what the young person is looking for and what the local labour market can offer."


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