The Minister Lord Nash, responding to a PQ in the Lords on Careers Guidance this month, said there is clear evidence that if  one relies on face to face careers guidance that  this is a very ineffective strategy. Most studies have concluded  ,he intoned, that the best careers advice comes through activities with employers, and there is evidence that five or more employer engagements during secondary school means that students are seven times less likely to be NEET. Really?  Come again.  Does the Minister truly  think that face to face careers advice from a trained guidance professional is ineffective- and that the best careers advice comes from employer engagement and that this engagement is the same as professional  careers guidance ? The alarm bells are ringing! If he does then the careers strategy will be a dogs dinner, marginalizing professional advisers and yet another missed opportunity. And , guess what, its the most disadvantaged  students who will suffer the most. (talking evidence, its  disadvantaged students who  benefit the most from face to face professional  guidance)

Employers are not trained in giving guidance. Giving information is not the same as guidance.  At a time when the guidance sector is focused on improving quality assurance, for guidance professionals , Ministers want to send lots of employers into schools. So where is the quality assurance in this process? Do they have the right skills? Do they have the knowledge base ? Are they good communicators? Have they worked with young people before? Do they know the routes into different professions, outside their own sectors and the qualifications required.? Will they be  impartial and disinterested , or will they promote the merits  of their company sector or profession? Would they know what a facilitating subject was ? Where are their guidance qualifications? In short,  Where, on earth is the quality assurance in this engagement process? Ministers endlessly quote the same one piece of research which they manage to fundamentally misunderstand and misuse about the importance of employer engagement. To base policy on such a narrow and selective evidence base will lead to poor policy design and ultimately a hopeless strategy.  .Nobody suggests that its only about careers advice from professionals. This has to be combined with (quality assured) employer engagement, of course, careers education ie equipping young people with the tools to make informed choices ,and high quality work experience.
Ministers though are stuck on one track. Employer engagement with schools, and, err, that’s about it. They should adhere to all the Gatsby benchmarks on careers guidance, one of which, number eight as it happens,  covers personal  face to face guidance from a trained professional.  Rather than specifying a particular model  it said ‘ , the indicator for our benchmark is that the interview should be with an adviser who is appropriately trained to have the necessary guidance skills, the knowledge of information sources and the essential impartiality to do the job.’ It continues ‘ This person might be an external adviser (the professional association for career guidance practitioners, the Career Development Institute, maintains a register of qualified practitioners), or might be one or more trained members of the existing school staff, whose careers role could be part-time or full-time. School leaders told the authors of the Gatsby report that they thought personal guidance important because it:
– Tailors advice to individual needs;
– Can direct pupils towards the information sources of most use to them, and the actions most relevant to them;
– Can (and always should) give impartial advice that has only the pupils’ interests at heart.
The authors stated ‘Alongside our evidence from international practice, there is research evidence that personal guidance has an observable impact on young people’s careers and progression.’ So Ministers should stop cherry picking. Stop cheery picking both  the empirical  evidence and the Gatsby benchmarks. Otherwise the Careers strategy will be dead in the water..



  1. Maybe the evidence that shows that those young people who have lots of employer engagement opportunities are less likely to be NEET also shows that they attended schools where this was part of a broad and good quality Careers Education with access to trained careers guidance professionals. The current Careers and Enterprise Company’s work in promoting more employer contacts for schools is still fairly new and I’m not convinced will have had an impact on long term NEET figures. So one wonders why this evidence is being taken as a beacon of light when for the past 7 years this government has consistently ignored and disparaged evidence showing the benefits of giving young people face to face careers guidance.

    • Yes. and how much money is being ‘invested’ in this ever expanding CEP quango without any evaluation of its effectiveness and impact on outcomes .

  2. Apparently being a Tory minister enables you to talk complete bollocks on career guidance with impunity. Someone should be challenging this idiot to produce the evidence or retract.

    • Dont think its limited to Tory Ministers. There is a blind spot when it comes to evidence, generally.

      • Good to see that my old friend and colleague has not lost his way with words. I agree with him, but to be fair – and I am no apologist for the Tories – politicians of all parties have a poor track record when it comes to career guidance. Those of us who have long memories will know that had Labour won the 1970 General Election, the then fledgling LEA service would have been subsumed into what was then the Governments wemployment service (what we now call Job Centres) Instead, under the Tories we got a mandatory LEA service which actually wasn’t too bad. Also, it was a Labour minister – Baroness Blackstone – who blamed inadequate careers advice for the high “drop – out” rate from HE while almost in the same breath stated that, as her daughter could navigate her way round the UCAS unaided, couldn’t anybody. Someone challenged her on that at an ICG Conference – it wasn’t me, but I wish it had been !

      • And speaking of Labour politicians, that party is seeking contributions to policy ideas on a range of topics, including education, from all and sundry whether you are a member or not. Visit their web site for more details.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s