This post originally appeared on ISE:Insights on 23rd February 2021. In it I discuss the importance of career guidance for student employers and explore why it is important for people to come to the great debate on career guidance in the time of Covid.
In the summer, the Chancellor announced a raft of new initiatives to support business and prevent mass-unemployment in his Plan for Jobs. Amongst other like initiatives such as the infamous Eat Out to Help Out, the Plan for Jobs included a substantial pot of new funding for career guidance.
“The evidence says careers advice works, so we’ll fund it, with an additional £32 million to recruit careers advisers and provide bespoke advice and careers guidance for over a quarter of a million more people.” Rishi Sunak (July, 2020)
Career education and guidance (career guidance) describes a wide range of activities designed to support individuals and groups to make effective transitions and to manage their careers. In the current environment when unemployment is rising for both young people and adults, career guidance is more important than ever.
Why student employers should care
Career guidance is one of the only aspects of the education system that actively looks towards employment and employers.
Career guidance professionals are charged with helping young people to think about what they want to do, preparing them for work and supporting them to make the transition.
Career guidance is funded by governments for exactly this reason, because it helps to align the education system with the labour market and makes sure that individuals make wise choices about their careers, informed by the reality of what is in the labour market.
For student employers, the existence of career guidance is hugely valuable because it means that there is someone in every school, college and university who wants to talk to you.
Career guidance professionals often have the lead responsibility with educational institutions to link with employers, bring employers in to talk to students and organise work experience.
So looking for the careers leader in a school or college or the careers service in a university is often your shortest route to the student market.
Challenges for career guidance
Over the last year the delivery of career guidance has been seriously disrupted. In schools, where the provision of career guidance has often been patchy anyway, the closures and concern about the need for academic catch up has made the delivery of career guidance much more challenging.
School budgets are under pressure, while schools are being asked to deliver the impossible and make up for a year of lost learning. Against this background it is easy for schools to focus inwards and for the provision of career guidance to get squeezed.
In universities the picture is more positive. Higher education careers services are more consistent and larger in scale. This has made it easier for them to manage the shift online that has been necessitated by Covid. However, the last year has disrupted many of the traditional approaches that higher education careers services have used to deliver services to students and work with employers. Many universities are also tightening their belts, suggesting that careers services may have to fight for resources going forwards.
If career guidance in the education system is allowed to go into decline it will pose substantial challenges for employers. The loss of a key contact within the education system and the shifting of focus away from preparing students for their careers will create a more challenging climate for recruitment and ultimately candidates who are less aware of how to navigate recruitment processes and provide the skills that employers need.
Until the end of 2020 the government had a careers strategy which provided strategic direction for career guidance across the education system (and beyond).
The government pays for most career guidance in the UK and so it has an interest in shaping and directing it. However, in a year when the government’s plate has been rather full, the careers strategy has been allowed to run out and been replaced with a short section in the government’s new white paper. This makes some welcome proposals to improve careers provision but lacks ambition and largely ignores the challenge posed by the current crisis.
There is a desperate need to attend to career guidance, ensure it is capable of addressing the current crisis and improve it for the future. The government needs to develop a new careers strategy that addresses the following issues:
Ensuring that schools and colleges can continue to deliver high quality career guidance
Career guidance in compulsory education has been dangerously disrupted throughout 2020 and into 2021, but young people need support and a Careers Guidance Guarantee as they make transitions and enter an uncertain labour market.
Supporting young people once they leave education
The transition from education to employment is a key moment when career plans change and talent is wasted. Young people need to have access to clearly defined and timely support once they leave education.
Improving co-ordination of the plethora of government careers, employment and retraining schemes
The government has funded several youth employment advice and support schemes, but it is unclear to many young people and to employers how these work and who to ask about them. There is a need for a strategy that simplifies the landscape and clarifies what students and employers can expect.
ISE and the Career Development Policy Group have organised a cross-party meeting of parliamentarians to discuss these issues. It is free to attend and it would be valuable to have employer voices and others from the student employment sector in attendance.
Book to attend Career education and guidance in the time of Covid (Tuesday 2 March, 12.30-14.00).