Page last updated at 07:50 GMT, Saturday, 27 February 2010

Schools careers advice 'patchy and inconsistent'

School classroom
Experts say mainstream pupils have lost out on careers advice

Careers advice in schools in England is "patchy and inconsistent", according to the Institute of Career Guidance.

The UK-wide body warns a whole generation is not being taught the skills and knowledge needed to enter the labour market.

The government says its initiatives, including the new careers profession taskforce, will improve careers advice.

Teaching unions said their members could not be expected to be employment experts as well as teachers.

Over the past decade, the government has focused on helping those young people likely to end up not in employment, education or training - so-called Neets.

Careers advice experts say this has left a huge gap in provision for mainstream pupils but they point out the shift has been less dramatic in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Institute of Career Guidance (ICG), the UK's professional membership association for all those working in careers information, said the system in England was "patchy and inconsistent".

Young people are not developing the knowledge and skills of the labour market
Dr Deidre Hughes, ICG president

ICG president Dr Deidre Hughes said: "We have a generation coming through university now that have not had an experience of high-quality careers education.

"What that means is young people are not developing the knowledge and skills of the labour market and the important skills to equip them."

Katharine Horler, of Connexions, which provides advice to teenagers, said people were wrong to judge careers advice on whether they ended up doing the job their advisor suggested.

She explained: "That's not what careers advice is about.

"Careers advice is about developing decision making skills, developing resilience to help you manage the ups and downs that come with a career.

Taskforce created

"Good careers advice is actually about helping people develop those skills for the whole of their careers and for the rest of their lives."

Last month, the Department for Children, Schools and Families announced the creation of a careers profession taskforce.

It will work to create a "careers workforce fit for the 21st Century" and focus on recruitment and retention of well-qualified careers professionals as well as ensuring they reflect the make-up of the working population.

The government said it recognised the quality of information, advice and guidance varied across the country and it would review the system delivered by local authorities in 2011.

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