Careers guidance for young people: The impact of the new duty on schools - Education Committee Contents

Annex 2

Note of the Committee's seminar with young people
7 November 2012

This note is a record of a seminar held by the Committee with 23 young people. The purpose of the seminar was to gather the views of young people on their experience of careers advice and guidance and what they would hope and expect to get out of careers advice and guidance activities. The young people who attended were involved with a number of organisations representing young people from different backgrounds. The organisations were British Youth Council, Centrepoint Parliament, North Tyneside Youth Council, The Prince's Trust, UK Youth and the Who Cares? Trust.

What is your experience of careers advice and guidance?

The discussion began by looking at how careers advice and guidance was provided, and by whom. Most of the young people felt that having a largely internet-based service was far from ideal. They felt that young people were left "too much to their own devices", and that input from teachers and other professionals was of greater value.

The young people spoke about the absence of careers advice and guidance in schools. Experiences varied but were generally not positive. One student had not had any careers advice. She had asked the teachers for information but they either could not offer anything or tried to steer her down a safe path. When she asked where else she could go, the school suggested Connexions but she found that it had closed down. It was confusing. Later, she also explained that she felt that advisers believe "you can't fly that high"; they should always expect the best and not tell you to be "more sensible". The young people wanted a service that was more enthusiastic and encouraging. Too often, young people reported, the focus of careers advice sessions was on earning potential, or on themes and pathways with which advisers themselves were most familiar.

Many agreed that if you want to do well and are motivated, you will talk to your teachers and get help. There was less available for non-academic students. There was a split between those who knew what they wanted to do and those who didn't, and schools had limited information for the latter. Many students were pushed towards the traditional A level/VI form route and there was not a lot of information about BTecs and other vocational courses.

More positively, one young person mentioned that at her school, tutorial time was set aside every week for careers education work. She had found this to be very effective; it was regular, in bite-sized pieces and delivered by a teacher who knew the young person.


Connexions was a "brand" that all the young people were familiar with, although there was a strong view that it tended to focus on personal issues and gave little attention to careers advice and guidance.

Experiences of Connexions were varied: some reported significant time spent with personal advisers, where others had had just an hour of advice, in-school, or even "ten minutes in Year 10". It was felt that the Connexions offer of a single session was insufficient in itself and delivered only very basic information. One young person described the careers service provided by Connexions as "rubbish". A student who was just starting GCSEs explained that Connexions came into the school and gave one-to-one sessions but this was very basic, unspecific information (for example, website links) and nothing to take them further. After this one meeting, the young person was told to make an appointment if they wanted to see an adviser again, but that proved difficult to arrange.

Some of the young people had benefitted from Connexions' wider advice, for example around personal and family issues. These young people spoke more positively about the service than others.

There was general agreement, though, that improving the weaker Connexions services would have been preferable to shutting down the entire organisation.

What sort of careers advice and guidance do you want?

None of the young people thought that schools currently provide sufficient careers guidance and advice. It was agreed that careers education should be in the curriculum and that steps should be taken to avoid the varying practice across different schools and enhance the consistency of provision. Both quality and quantity of careers advice and guidance were seen as important.

There were differing views on whether careers guidance should be provided by teachers. Some felt strongly that the advice they received from teachers was very valuable because of the established relationship with them. Others thought that outsiders were better because they were more objective. Many young people agreed that schools were the right place to provide advice because of the knowledge they hold of the young person's interests, abilities and ambitions. However, it was felt by some that teachers should have more training to be able to provide higher quality guidance and advice.

It was agreed by all that impartiality and independence was a key component that young people wanted. Face-to-face guidance was also regarded as an essential part of any provision for all young people. The most popular request was more face-to-face advice. Telephone and website consultations were not enough because of difficulties over access and cost. Face-to-face also allowed for a better connection to be formed. The interview should be with a careers person who can point you in the direction of jobs and careers you would either be good at or interested in.

One young person spoke about his experience of being given advice through an online programme, where information was fed in and possible careers options were given. He found this to be unhelpful as he was not interested in any of the careers that the software had suggested. He compared this to a face-to-face interview with a career counsellor the following year, which he found to be very useful.

There was general agreement that navigating the numerous websites was difficult and that it needed simplifying. One young person, talking about their use of career websites, said: " I am tech-savvy, but found it too much". Another said that while the "web can be powerful, it needs to be a process—young people need interaction".

The whole group was invited to give a view on the age at which careers work should begin. The majority of the group agreed that years 7 and 8 were around the right time, with a few settling on slightly earlier (year 6) and others thinking that year 9 was most appropriate. It was felt that the system should also be flexible for young people who might need advice and guidance at different stages.

The young people were attracted by a suggestion that there should be better co-ordination of careers advice, guidance, and work experience into a curriculum package which included citizenship and life skills, such as CV-writing. Current provision was seen as inconsistent and patchy, and dependent on your own school or college or local service provider. Building a package into the curriculum could help resolve this, it was felt, as well as helping to ensure equality for young people.

Work experience and work-related learning.

The general consensus was that work experience was very valuable in teaching life lessons and skills. Some young people argued that work experience's real value had been suggesting careers they would not want to pursue, and that it could serve as an incentive to work harder in school to gain qualifications for a career they would rather pursue.

Placements sometimes seemed irrelevant to individuals' own ambitions. A number of the young people who had work experience in the past said that they had got "nothing out of it". It was felt that too often young people were "palmed off to retail" businesses and it was described as "free labour" by some of the delegates.

Most of those present had had work experience while at school. In a few cases it was arranged through family or organised by the student themselves but for most it was through the school. The best experience, where the school had arranged it well, involved the students in year 11 receiving a list of local businesses and then applying for places. Teachers checked up on the students twice during the fortnight and the students also had booklets to fill in (a common element). At the end the students received references.

It was suggested that organisations offering work experience should receive some training on how to host young people (and perhaps offer mentoring as part of the experience). It was also felt strongly by most delegates that work experience was more valuable when spread across a longer period of time—perhaps a day per fortnight—rather than being completed in a block. The potential for workplaces to be 'accredited' for their work experience placements was discussed, although young people suggested this could actually deter some good firms which didn't want administrative hassle.

Knowledge of the labour market varied. Some felt that they knew the types of jobs which were available to them. Others pointed out that many students put off worrying about such decisions until after A levels or after their degree.

The group also discussed the impact of youth unemployment, agreeing that this was mainly a question of having the right skills. One suggested that NEETs "don't know how to start, where to start or what to do". Work-based learning would help to develop skills in these cases.

When the views of employers on the employability skills of young people were put to the group, the response was that employers forgot what it was like to be young and looking for a job. It was hard to get experience when you hadn't already got it.

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