Why careers guidance needs to be transformed – Jan Ellis

AS Yorkshire’s economy emerges from a tumultuous 18 months, it is more important than ever to provide local people with the skills and knowledge they need to take of advantage of the ever changing labour market.

How can careers guidance be improved as students consider their futures in the wake of this week's A-Level results? Photo: Tony Johnson.

The impact of Brexit and a global pandemic have accelerated the pace of change, increasing our use of technology and implementation of digital solutions.

Meanwhile youth unemployment is also rising, with young people finding it difficult to access jobs and opportunities to suit their skills. So how do we bring hope, with realistic education and career choices?

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How can someone aspire and work towards an exciting career ambition without knowing what careers really exist? The answer is they can’t, so something needs to be done.

How can careers guidance be improved as students consider their futures in the wake of this week's A-Level results? Photo: Tony Johnson.

So why, when the importance of careers guidance is so clear, is there a continued lack of targeted investment? Firstly, while many people can and do offer careers advice, essentially based on their own experiences, the pay and conditions for many in the profession mean that those who are qualified and trained to provide expert, objective and impartial career guidance frequently choose to use their skills in more financially rewarding careers.

Secondly, despite having a national brand, career guidance services in England are poorly signposted which makes them difficult to access.

The Government has chosen to invest in a schools-based careers service for young people – but what happens in the holidays or when students leave for the summer? Where do they go for help? The only option is JobCentrePlus – which is a place to access job vacancies rather than career guidance.

We do have the National Careers Service, which is sadly one of the country’s best kept secrets! It provides a wide range of online services and face to face guidance from qualified advisers. However, it lacks investment – meaning the people who need the service most aren’t always able to access it.

How can careers guidance be improved?

So what can be done, particularly in areas of high unemployment and struggling economies? Firstly, we need a stronger link between education and employment.

The Government’s Skills for Jobs White Paper makes it clear that employers must take a leading role in this, ensuring that people of all ages are able to develop skills that businesses need now and in the future.

Then, once in jobs, career development must be offered on an ongoing basis to support progression, ambition and success – it is a win for employers too, to have increased productivity, motivated satisfied staff, who in turn earn more.

This neatly translates into a national, lifelong strategy for careers guidance involving employers, education providers and expert careers professionals.

But Government policy 
takes time to change, funding is tighter than ever and demand 
for careers services is increasing – so we need to identify new 
ways to tackle the issue, right now.

We know that working with employers is a key, as is accessing private investment at a time when public funding simply is adequate. Providing place and space for people of all ages to access high quality, careers guidance is vital – and is something Manor Property Group is addressing with the development of a national network of Qdos Career Hubs, starting with Melton, serving East Yorkshire and Hull, and another hub in Rotherham, serving the most needed parts of the Sheffield City Region.

Each hub will meet the needs of local communities – with planning permission now granted in Rotherham and work in progress in Melton. Manor 
is planning to establish 160 of these ground-breaking hubs across the country, with 
Manor’s home of East Riding of Yorkshire leading the way to address the very real demand for improved careers guidance in England.

My work in different regions has indicated that there is great need for hubs to support primary-age children, young people and adults – with a range of activities including workshops, employer forums, community events, career clubs, evening classes, Children’s University, Digital Bootcamps and re-training and upskilling for adults.

If we are to rebuild our local economies and communities, we have to change the way we look at careers guidance. No longer can it be a ‘nice to have’ standalone offer – but an integral and fundamental element 
of our education and skills systems.

Jan Ellis is CEO of Qdos Education and former CEO of the Career Development Institute.

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