Thumbs down for revamped careers service
Skills Development Scotland careers advisers have delivered a damning verdict on the organisation's newly implemented careers advice service, branding it "inadequate" and "not fit for purpose".
In a survey by trade union Unison, 97.9 per cent of the 386 SDS staff questioned disagreed or strongly disagreed that the new model, rolled out in September and focused on online delivery, would result in an enhanced careers information and guidance service.
The survey was carried out in the months immediately following the launch of the new model, which sees pupils categorised according to a traffic light system.
"Green" pupils, likely to go to university or college, are referred to the My World of Work website in the first instance, and only "amber" pupils, who tend to have records of poor attendance or low achievement, are offered regular access to face-to-face careers advice. "Red" pupils, a small group considered unable to engage with careers advice, are diverted to other services.
"My World of Work is wholly inadequate as a standalone universal offer. It is difficult to navigate, fraught with technical problems and provides information without guidance," one SDS staff member said in the survey. "The assumption that more able pupils are therefore more able to make well-informed, realistic decisions is absurd."
Less than 3 per cent of careers advisers felt SDS had utilised their knowledge and expertise when creating the new model. One told the survey that they felt "bullied, disrespected and 100 per cent disempowered".
More than three-quarters of careers advisers also felt the new model would not enhance their role within SDS.
The new careers service in school would "stigmatise pupils accessing our face-to-face services and even drive the amber pupils away", said one respondent.
A spokesman for SDS said: "SDS has established an academy to support and engage staff to deliver our enhanced services. Frontline colleagues are progressing through a range of bespoke training modules such as coaching, strengths analysis and career labour market information.
"The Unison survey was launched before the developing roll-out of our service offer. The findings of the early Unison survey are inconsistent with the feedback from our own numerous and extensive national and regional staff sessions," he said.
"We are not replacing face-to-face services with a website. Rather, My World of Work is an enhancement to our highly professional careers services."
Fewer than one in five secondary pupils are thought to be registered users of My World of Work (MWOW), Skills Development Scotland's careers website, according to its own estimates.
In East Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire, an estimated 10 per cent of the school population was registered on MWOW between April 2011 and the end of October 2012.
The statistics include pupils aged 12-19, although SDS careers advisers engage mostly with S4-6s.
One SDS careers adviser suggested various reasons for the low figures: pupils had difficulty registering owing to IT deficiencies in schools, or simply chose not to register. Even if they did, this did not mean they would return to the site.
Scottish Labour's deputy education spokesman, Neil Findlay, said the figures were "truly shocking" at a time of "rising and sustained youth unemployment".
"We need careers officers working with our young people in schools, careers offices and in the community - not simply referring them to a website," he said.
A spokesman for SDS said: "It is not compulsory to register with My World of Work. With very limited proactive promotion, (the site) has achieved high levels of visitors and repeat visitors with around a million unique visitors and over 470,000 returning visitors."
He added: "Evidence suggests that universal blanket public services do not have a dramatic impact on reducing inequalities. SDS, while maintaining universal access, is now targeting much-needed resources towards those young people who need it most."