MPs: Skills gap exacerbated by “inadequate” careers advice

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“Patchy” and inadequate career advice resulting from Government policy is worsening the skills gap in the jobs market and damaging the economy.

That’s according to the first report published by a cross-party sub-committee of MPs, which has called on Ofsted, the education watchdog, to avoiding rating schools as “good” or “outstanding” if careers provision is inadequate.

The sub-committee, formed by the Education and Business, Innovation and Skills Committees in 2015, aims to examine issues around education and skills, and how they impact upon business and the economy.

Its report, published today (5 July), found that a variety of policy changes introduced by the Government to improve education services have, in some cases, had the opposite effect, and the resulting skills gap is having a knock-on effect on the economy.

Neil Carmichael MP, co-chair, said: “At a time when it is vital we equip young people with the right skills for their working lives, it’s concerning that so many are being failed by the guidance they receive.

“Careers advice should be a core part of a young person’s schooling, but at the moment it is little more than a poorly thought out add-on. Schools should be incentivised to treat careers education, advice, information and guidance as a priority.”

The investigation found that girls, those from a minority ethnic or working-class background, and lower-attaining students were less likely to receive careers guidance.

Students who are unsure of their aspirations or who plan to leave education after age 16 are all significantly less likely to receive meaningful guidance, as are those with special educational needs, said the report.


While the committee welcomed the Department for Education’s intention to publish a careers strategy in 2016, it said that more needs to be done. The report proposes that the Government needs to:

  • encourage schools to improve, including downgrading Ofsted inspections in cases of ineffective careers provision;
  • simplify the “tangled web” of services offering career advice, and address funding;
  • put one minister in charge of the entire process;
  • ensure that those seeking advice are given accurate and up-to-date information about the labour market; and
  • provide young people with meaningful work experience opportunities.

In order to address the skills gap, with engineering, IT and medical care cited as sectors specifically struggling to recruit skilled workers, more should be invested in correctly matching skills to those needed in the labour market and educating students about the world of work. This includes more detailed guidance on routes, salaries, and apprenticeships.

Iain Wright MP, sub-committee co-chair, said: “Initiative after initiative has rained down from Government in recent years with regards to careers guidance, creating a confusing and costly mess when what we really need is a clear picture.

“With the skills gap widening, it is essential that young people are well-informed about the experiences, qualifications and training they need to pursue their chosen careers and that the guidance they are given is grounded in accurate information about the jobs market.”

In September 2012, a cross-party Commons education select committee pointed to a “worrying deterioration” in the standard of careers advice given to young people as a result of responsibility for in-school career guidance moving from local authorities to schools and colleges.

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