In Support of Careers Advisers


This week I came across a Huffington Post Students article  Which had a title that had many a careers adviser jumping up and down and tweeting like mad

apprenticeshipNational Apprenticeship Week: ‘I Had To Educate My Careers Advisor About Apprenticeships’

Though I’m not a careers adviser, I have worked for over 15 years in the school careers education sector and am a rare thing, a teacher that really wants to give pupils an impartial careers overview. (Cue barrage of complaints from teachers about stereotyping – hold that thought till you’ve read the rest of the blog)   I can’t let the sleight on professional careers advisers go without a rebuttal. Let me explain

As mentioned in the Huffington Post article schools are ranked in many league tables on how many pupils they send to university, particularly Oxbridge, but  they also have an imperative to fill their own 6th forms if they have one.   I’ve mentioned this in my blogs before.  So, whilst I’ve worked in schools that are in general extremely supportive of impartial careers education, you will often find a SLT member who wants the other local 6th form providers prospectuses’ removed from the library, let alone apprenticeship information.  So how much worse must it be for a careers adviser or teacher in a school that is chasing better league table results?


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Many a cuppa have I shared with a frustrated careers adviser who has been refused permission to distribute college open days information, or has been ticked off by a senior member of staff for giving a young person information about apprenticeships because “that person has the ability to stay on for A Levels or head off to a Russel Group uni.”  Why should apprenticeships be an option for less academically able?

So, the we come to the part that I take issue with;

Students are being left to educate their own career advisors about apprenticeships and are being handed detentions if they don’t attend UCAS tutorials – even if they don’t want to go to university,

Don’t blame the poor careers advisers.  They’re having a hard enough time being derided by Gove as being replaceable by business people coming in to have a chat and being given unpalatable instructions by senior teaching staff.  With Connexions gone, many qualified careers advisers, who have to have a  post-graduate  certification, are having to work on a freelance basis for schools that engage them on contracts to provide guidance. Not every school does this, many have no careers adviser at all.  So if the SLT tell them don’t talk about apprenticeships, then what would you do if the choice was pay the mortgage or give the child info about apprenticeships without being asked about them?

So even if a poor disheartened careers adviser did pretend to know nothing about  apprenticeships, it’s probably because they have been told not to bring them up OR the person that the young people saw was not a qualified careers adviser but a person who had the job of talking to the pupils about what they want to do in a biased way in order to fill up the school 6th form.

So careers advisers and young people are stuck between 2 systems:-

  1. Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

    Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

    Schools  who are being judged by their uni placement results  BUT also being told (in a very soft voice) that they need to deliver impartial guidance

  2. The needs of the employers who are looking for young people with the right skills for their vacancies or apprenticeships but whose needs are not being met as schools are being judged on exam results and university placement.  This means that employability skills are not linked to the subjects that are taught in schools, thus young people aren’t able to make  the necessary link between what they learn in the classroom and the world of work.

The needs of young people to be able to make sense of an increasingly confusing and competitive messages from conflicting services each promoting their own agenda are being sidelined by these 2 imperatives.

The only dimly flickering light at the end of the  short-term tunnel is the government’s issuing of statutory guidance about the provision of careers information advice and guidance in schools which is due any day now.  Though to be honest, I don’t expect there to be any real change in imperative.  Given Lord Nash’s comments in Parliament last week which seem to confirm that there will be no expectation upon schools to deliver face to face guidance with pupils

In the long-term, and here I’m indebted to Tristram Hooley’s blog for bringing it to my attention.  The Labour Party policy review states:-

The CDI is the registration body for appropriately qualified careers professionals

The CDI is the registration body for appropriately qualified careers professionals

In our work we have been struck by the massive unanimity around the importance of Information, Advice and Guidance. The consensus is overwhelming: good, effective, independent advice and guidance is essential. OECD reaches the same view, and goes further. Their argument is that given the massive complexity of the contemporary labour market, no upper secondary system can be truly effective without an independent advice and guidance function, staffed by appropriately trained professionals.

So maybe, sometime soon, the government will do something about the conflicting imperatives which exist to complicate the delivery of impartial careers education, information, advice and guidance.

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