Chief executive of Careers South West, Jenny Rudge OBE, looks at the plight of young people at risk of becoming NEET – Not in Education, Employment or Training
The Government's decision to lift the duty on local councils to provide a universal careers service could leave young people without the help they need to find jobs and training unless parents and teachers become more proactive in sourcing the right careers advice for their children.
According to 2011's Education Act, from 2013 all 17 year olds will have to remain in learning or learning in work until the end of the academic year in which they are 17 and from 2015 young people have to remain in learning until their 18th birthday. From this month the Government will no longer fund universal face-to-face careers advice for pupils and it will become the responsibility of schools to put appropriate arrangements in place. But how do parents ensure this happens?
At Careers South West we have welcomed a recent report from The Work Foundation that warns that the changes risk "compromising the quality and availability" of guidance available to young people and shows concern that schools have not been given enough extra funding to secure impartial advice.
From 2013 schools need to report on the destination statistics of their students and are also under a duty to secure and fund access to careers guidance for their students; ensuring that the careers advice provided is independent and impartial.
Careers South West already works closely with many schools throughout the South West to offer students the support and advice they need whilst they are still at school. A new and innovative HE Navigator Package can provide a constructive approach to Higher Education; it includes three one-hour group sessions with a careers adviser, a course finder questionnaire, advice on applying for higher education, an individual interview and ongoing online support. Over a three to four-month period each student is entitled to approximately five hours of dedicated time that ensures they are better informed to make decisions on their investment in higher education, identify, choose and apply for courses, link higher education choices with future career opportunities and understand how to make the most of skills and experience at university to maximise their opportunities in the labour market post-degree. It can examine alternative options for school leavers such as gap year opportunities, studying abroad, alternatives to higher education and completing personal statements.
The impact of a student making the wrong choice about their future is both emotionally and financially costly: 8.6% of students drop out of their university course in the first year, costing as much as £9,000 in lost fees. The Work Foundation Report warns that with schools having complete control over their budgets to buy in the support their pupils need they will need to work in partnership with external impartial and expert careers guidance providers such as Careers South West to give pupils face-to-face guidance, so they can make informed choices about their future and hopefully avoid costly mistakes.
Co-author of the Work Foundation report Lizzie Crowley has suggested that careers education should be embedded in the curriculum as early as primary school and expanded on with age in an effort to prevent young people from becoming NEET later on in life. She insists that Government cuts to careers services are storing up much bigger problems for the future, meaning that growing numbers of young people are left without the support they need to effectively navigate their way into the labour market.
The latest official data shows that 191,000 youngsters aged between 16 and 18 were considered NEET in the three months up to June. In the same period, almost a million 16-to-24-year-olds – 968,000 young people – were considered NEET.
I see it as our job to advise parents to start asking questions of their children's schools about how careers advice will be delivered to the pupils and whether it is being provided by somebody qualified as a careers adviser with both the skills and knowledge to ensure independence and impartiality. Parents should reasonably expect that schools will provide sufficient face-to-face careers guidance to enable most, if not all pupils, to have an interview with a qualified careers adviser.
There should be access for all young people, through the curriculum, to a programme of careers education where they learn about the range of opportunities available, how they are structured and how to apply. External providers such as Careers South West offer a number of services over and above that which would be provided by schools, such as psychometric assessments which enable young people to understand their strengths and areas of interest.