Image: Max Klingensmith Image: Max Klingensmith

Bad careers advice in schools in England is exacerbating the skills gap and having a negative impact on the UK's productivity puzzle, according to a group of MPs.

The Education, Skills and the Economy (ESE) Sub-Committee has urged the government to incentivise schools to improve careers advice, which includes Ofsted downgrading those where careers provision is sub-standard.

In the first report published by the Sub-Committee, it said the government must also untangle the unruly and complex web of organisations, service providers and websites overseeing and offering careers advice and put a single Minister in charge of provision.

The Sub-Committee found that too many young people in England are leaving education without having had the chance to fully consider their future options or how their skills and experiences fit with opportunities in the jobs market.

It also judged that a host of policy changes, initiatives and new bodies introduced in recent years have failed to make serious improvements and in some cases have even been counter-productive.

Neil Carmichael MP, chair of the Education Committee and co-chair of the ESE Sub-Committee, 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 Committee recommends Ofsted plays a bigger role in ensuring careers guidance is up to scratch by downgrading those who do not deliver high quality provision. A school should not be graded as ‘good’ if its careers provision is inadequate."

Iain Wright MP, chair of the Business, Innovation, and Skills Committee and co-chair of the ESE Sub-Committee, said: “The world of business and work is changing rapidly. There is huge choice in the career paths young people could embark upon and rapid change also means that there will be opportunities for jobs and professions in new and emerging industries.

“In this context, young people and their parents need the best possible and clear guidance to inform their choices and decisions. Yet 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.”

The Sub-Committee's recommendations were:

  • Providing incentives for schools to improve their careers provision and mechanisms for holding to account those that fail to do so
  • Taking steps to untangle the complex web of national organisations and to create efficiencies by bringing funding streams into line
  • Bringing greater coherence to the unruly market of organisations and websites offering careers information, advice and guidance services
  • Ensuring advice and guidance is grounded in accurate information about the labour market
  • Giving young people the opportunity to understand better the world of work, through encounters with employers and meaningful work experience opportunities