Careers advice and guidance – key to addressing Britain’s economic divisions

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The evidence is clear. Careers advice makes a positive impact on social mobility when delivered appropriately. Its impact on people’s lives and the economy should not be overlooked. We need more of it.

The government’s recent Social Mobility Commission report which, alarmingly, says “there is nothing approaching a skills plan that will let us face the challenges of post-Brexit Britain” only heightens the need for more recognition of the link between high quality careers advice and increased levels of social mobility.

In the drive to improve social mobility, the important role of quality careers advice is often overlooked in favour of more supposedly ‘meaty’ factors such as segregation, housing, transport or education.

As an organisation at the forefront of providing expert jobs and skills advice, training and apprenticeships to young people and adults, we work daily with those who face some of the biggest barriers in this area.

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Whether it's young people at risk of drifting into doing nothing after school, adults with mental health issues, people who can’t work because they need to care for a loved one, or those who have lost their confidence because of personal knock-backs, we see at first hand the genuinely transformational impact that careers advice and guidance can have on people’s lives.

While progress has been made in areas of social policy which have led to increased levels of employment, there are still fundamental issues that need addressing.

Increased numbers of working class youngsters going to university, the stubborn issue of low productivity and a rapidly changing jobs market means that employment opportunities for everyone are more squeezed than ever before. This disproportionally impacts on people from low income households and younger job seekers looking to get their foot onto the jobs ladder in particular.

Research shows that for careers advice to make a tangible difference to social mobility levels, three things need to happen. These are:

1. An increased volume of careers advice

2. The careers offer to broaden to include all eight of the Gatsby Foundation’s recommendations

3. Greater consistency of quality

Uncertainty around the future provision of careers guidance in England isn’t helping matters. As a provider of the National Careers Service, for which we’ve been rated Outstanding by Ofsted, we’re still no clearer what the service will look like post April 2018. On the basis of her early statements, the appointment of Anne Milton as the latest skills minister is welcome. However, the relative short tenure of skills ministers has resulted in a lack of political continuity and this is now what the sector needs.

As vice-chair of Careers England, I echo its call to build on the success of the National Careers Service and create a national all age provision. Young people need more help than ever navigating their way into an eventual job. This is why we start this support early in children’s education. We work very closely with employers and organisations like The Edge Foundation to inspire young people in schools about employment.

Inspiring tomorrow's workforce today

We also support troubled families where consecutive generations have never worked. Youngsters from such households are more likely to drift into a lifetime of unemployment unless radical intervention takes place.

Through our National Careers Service delivery, we support many adults who are struggling to come to terms with the so-called ‘gig’ economy. A job is no longer for life. The need for the acquisition of new skills in a rapidly changing world, combined with the short-termism of many vocations, causes people great anxiety.

The evidence is clear. Careers advice makes a positive impact on social mobility when delivered appropriately. Its impact on people’s lives and the economy should not be overlooked. We need more of it.

John Yarham

Chief Executive – Futures Advice, Skills & Employment