Just been reading the front page of Lib Dem News (5/8/11). Delighted to see that Simon Hughes, as Advocate for Access to Education, is championing more and earlier careers advice for young people.
The previous government (aided by the Tories before 1997) systematically dismantled the careers guidance profession in England: first hiving it off into private companies, then forcing it to concentrate on those most in need but letting mainstream pupils fend for themselves, diluting the profession by making Careers Advisers become the jack of all trades Personal Advisers and finally starving it of funds to resources the service properly. It’s no wonder that pupils, parents and teachers are complaining.
Now I’m not saying Scotland is perfect but we have done things a bit differently, or at least until recently. Careers Scotland (the national all age guidance service) was recognised as world class (pdf), but the SNP after 2007 decided they could do better and pushed a huge restructuring, by creating Skills Development Scotland, onto the profession. The staff at SDS, which includes all of Careers Scotland, are dedicated to improving people’s lives and helping them to achieve their full potential. But there is a danger that short term populism by politicians is distracting SDS from its crucial core function of careers information, advice, guidance.
One of the most inspiring things about the profession is how dedicated Careers Advisers are to helping young people work out what they want to do and then helping them to do it. This can mean challenging girls who say they want to be nursery nurses or hairdressers, when everything they say indicates they’d rather be engineers, or it can mean showing boys who love cooking that they don’t have to be what their parents want by ‘getting a trade’ but can aspire to be the next Andrew Fairlie or Nick Nairn. Careers Advisers are there to help you think through what you want to do, not what your mates, your parents or your older brother or sister have told you you should do. They are there to get you really thinking about why you want to be an social worker, an astronaut or a lawyer. And they are there to help you raise your aspirations and not settle only for what you know.
I get really furious when I see government ministers paying lip service to the value of careers guidance and then failing to fund the service, or turning it into a political football. If we want the next generations to aim higher, we need to help them set clear career goals and then support them to get there. We won’t do this if the profession continues to be marginalised in England or treated as a political football in Scotland.
Two cheers for what Simon Hughes is championing. That will become three cheers when I see the Westminster & Scottish governments putting their money where their mouth is and supporting Careers Advisers to do their job without political interference!