Letters extra: The decline of career guidance

28th November 2003 at 00:00

Tony Watts' article on the erosion of career guidance for young people (TES, November 14) focuses attention on a critical national issue requiring serious public debate.

It is right that Connexions should provide much needed help to young people at risk. However, it is not right that this focus should deny the majority of young people access to specialist and informed career guidance to help them make education and career choices that profoundly affect the rest of their lives.

The consequences include: large numbers of students progressing into HE without sufficient opportunity to consider the career implications; inappropriate subject choices; drop-out; students and graduates with inadequate career management skills; graduates leaving HE with no clear career objectives; large-scale graduate temping and under-employment; frustration for those (already in debt) who realise too late that they cannot realise career objectives without further expensive study at post-graduate level; and waste of the nation's top potential. HE Careers Services (who cannot do it all) are deeply concerned.

Schools cannot make up the career guidance deficit alone. Resources are inadequate. Staff are under enormous pressure, and are mostly untrained in career guidance.nbsp;Previous partnership arrangements worked because schools were able to draw on external and impartial career specialists experienced in career guidance techniques, and able to use their detailed knowledge of local and national labour markets during their counselling work with young people.

Watts argues (rightly) that school career guidance should be linked to the skills agenda and placed with the Learning and Skills Council. The LSC is already responsible for career guidance post-19. Such a move would enable England to develop continuity of career guidance provision paralleling the all-age career guidance services now available in Scotland and Wales.

All age groups need periodic help in order to update their skills and optimise their potential in the current flexible, fast-changing, global labour market. Schools and young people would profit greatly from the accumulated resources, information and experience an all-age specialist service would provide.

Under the current fragmentary arrangements many young people are at risk of wasting their potential to the detriment of themselves, their communities and the national economy.

"Education, education, education" yes, but education - for what?

Geoff Ford
Yorknbsp;nbsp; nbsp;nbsp;

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