By Daniel Hunter

The quality of careers guidance is not good enough, with many young people leaving school or college with little knowledge of the workplace, CBI Director-General John Cridland told headteachers today (Wednesday).

He said careers advice is on “life support” in many areas, following schools and colleges being given sole statutory responsibility to give students independent, impartial advice from September 2012.

Speaking to the Grammar School Heads’ Association Annual Conference, Mr Cridland said it was right to give schools the freedom to run their own affairs — but warned that the Government “may have adopted too laissez faire an approach”, with serious consequences for our young people.

And he backed calls from the National Careers Council earlier this month to extend face-to-face advice from adults to students, as part of a major overhaul of the new National Careers Service.

He said that businesses need to be at the heart of preparing young people for work through mentoring and work experience — but they still needed to break down significant barriers to engaging in the schools system.

“The jump from school or college to work is getting bigger year-by-year, decade-by-decade. The education system needs to develop the rigorous, rounded and grounded young people who can make that leap," Mr Cridland said.

“The competition for jobs has never been so tough, with young people hit by a double whammy of slow economic growth and a rapidly changing labour market. Yet it’s alarming there is such a big mismatch between the skills that young people have and the realities of the workplace. We cannot afford to waste talent and investment when the long-term outlook is still so fragile.

“It’s clear that the careers advice system has not worked for employers or students for many years. A job-for-life has been and long gone — today’s jobs market is much more complex. Young people need reliable, high-quality advice but the system is too dependent on individual teachers or it’s left to family and friends to try and pick up the pieces — that’s simply not good enough.

“We know careers advice is on life support in many areas, as schools struggle with the new statutory duty. It’s right that schools should have the freedom to run their own affairs — but the Government may have adopted too laissez faire an approach with serious consequences for our young people. Businesses need to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in but there needs to be much more impetus from Whitehall. Careers must be a priority not a bolt-on afterthought or optional extra.

“It’s clear the National Careers Service is needed in schools. Young people need its brand of informed face-to-face advice, as well as needing to be better targeted, more actively online, through social media channels.”

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