Seeing a teacher outside of school is usually an embarrassing experience, but is even worse if the teacher works at a school you’ve dropped out of. That is what Louise Bromley, now the director of the YP collective – an employment platform for young people out of work- found out when she saw her maths teacher at the shop where she found her first job. The worst part, she explains, was that she was ‘supposed to go to Oxford’ but had ‘ended up in Pet Supermarket instead’. This was one of the many experiences shared at the meeting on careers guidance attended by the Careers and Enterprise Company – a taxpayer funded organisation to broker links between schools and businesses-, the Department for Education, YEUK and the YP collective on Tuesday the 17th of March, all of which reinforced one point: that careers guidance in the UK has failed a generation of young people.
The meeting made clear that the failure of careers education is due to a variety of reasons. First, there’s not enough of it. Several of the delegates from YEUK and the YP collective struggled to remember any careers guidance, and those who did found it to be limited at best. Darren, who also works for the YP collective, found that the just a single careers guidance meeting -the norm in many state schools- was useless, and that only working with young people over an extended period of time produced results. A survey carried out by Youth Employment UK also found that 42% of the respondents hadn’t even had one such meeting, and that only 7% of respondents had been advised about apprenticeships.
Second, much of the careers guidance is outdated. Careers education is currently geared toward the labour market of previous generations, in which most would stay in the same job their whole life, as oppose to today’s situation where it is common to switch entire fields multiple times over the course of a career. As such, young people often lack soft skills, such as the ability to network or present themselves to an employer, due to the focus within careers guidance on job-specific skills and advice.
Finally, the guidance that has been offered is almost universally uninspiring. A common complaint among the attendees was that they lacked a ‘purpose’ or ‘drive’ in their early years. Careers guidance officers rarely command any respect and several of the attendees reckoned this is because they usually work in isolation from employers, reducing their legitimacy as someone who understands the labour market. Most attendees agreed that more employers need to come to schools to inspire students. The outdated view that students will most likely stay in the same line of employment throughout their working life also reduces young people’s motivation to prepare for their future by forcing them to choose a career path before they understand what they’re interested in.
So careers education seems to have more weaknesses than strengths. With youth unemployment stubbornly high despite the economic recovery, the newly set up Careers and Enterprise company have their work cut out.
YEUK Says: It is great news that the new Careers and Enterprise Company want to hear the views of young people as they look at improving the careers landscape. We hope to build on this relationship and provide further support to the company with our #YouthVoice