Warning on careers advice shake-up amid fear number of NEETs could soar

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Changes to school careers guidance could put youngsters at greater risk of finding themselves out of education and work, research suggests.

A new study raises concerns that the Government’s decision to axe the duty on local councils to provide a universal careers service could leave young people without the help they need to find jobs and training.

It says Ministers need to rethink their plans to ensure that children get careers advice as early as primary school, and that pupils get decent work experience and access to face-to-face guidance.

Under the Education Act 2011, from this month, local authorities will no longer be required to provide a universal careers service for young people.

Instead, schools will have to ensure that their pupils have access to independent careers guidance. How they do this will be up to them.

But a report by the Work Foundation warns that these changes risk “compromising the quality and availability” of guidance available to young people. Schools have not been given extra funding to secure impartial advice, it said.

The study added there was concern that “ambiguity” within the legislation could mean that schools fulfilled the requirements by referring pupils to the new National Careers Service. But this would mean that under 19-year-olds only get advice online, or over the telephone, rather than face-to-face.

“Without careers education, careers guidance is reduced to an abrupt and isolated intervention,” the study said.

“Careers education should be embedded in the curriculum as early as primary school and expanded on with age in an effort to prevent young people from becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) later on in life.”

Report co-author Lizzie Crowley said: “The Government’s cuts to careers services are storing up much bigger problems for the future. These changes could see growing numbers of young people left without the support they need to effectively navigate their way into the labour market.

“This is short-termist thinking that will ultimately place a greater burden on the economy as rising numbers of young people find themselves not in education, employment or training (NEET).”

The latest official data shows that 191,000 youngsters aged between 16 and 18 were considered NEET in the three months up to June. In the same period, almost a million 16 to-24-year-olds – 968,000 young people – were considered NEET.