Schools Out, What Now? – Inadequate Careers Advice Could Cost The UK £90bn

In primary school, we had a career day to help us decide our future where I proudly announced I was going to grow up to be rock star. Looking back, I can see why my teacher advised against it – it wasn’t the most realistic career option given that the only instrument I could play was the triangle.

Despite my bitter childhood disappointment, it was an important first lesson about achievable career pathways and yet, no matter how many times we’re asked as children “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, it never seems to go beyond that initial question.

I can’t think of much, if any, career advice that I’ve received since my dreams of fame and fortune were crushed, and I’m not alone. After the 2011 cuts, the council was no longer obligated to fund Connexions, a school career advice service, and as a result 68% of parents felt that their children weren’t receiving enough guidance when it came to career pathways – with 65% of school students aged 11-13 being given no advice, and 27% of 13-15-year old's receiving just one hour (Kier Construction, 2017).

Even though children who have at least four hours of career guidance are 86% less likely to be unemployed or out of education (Kier Construction, 2017), the resources to help better prepare young people for life after school are ever dwindling and it’s a problem that’s estimated to cost the UK £90bn in the construction industry alone.

Instead of advising on the pathways that are available to young people now, most parents feel that much of the guidance is aimed to encourage children towards academia, rather than employment or vocational training. This apparent bias appears to start at primary school and continues all the way up to higher education - leading to one third of employers feeling that when a graduate applies for a job with them, they wouldn’t be suitable due to an unsatisfactory level of knowledge or experience in their chosen career (UCAS).

So instead of just asking “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and letting the train stop there, schools need to be helping the next generation to get on the right track. Young people should leave an institution more informed about the options they have for their future, not uncertain about what to do next or feeling pushed onto a path they’re not sure they want to be on – that’s why businesses like Kier and CIPD are volunteering a percentage of their workforce to act as school ambassadors to bridge the gap between education and employers.

We all had dreams about what we wanted to be when we grew up, but with the right advice and a little guidance – the next generation could make those dreams a reality.

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