Savage cuts to careers services will lead to a lost generation

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Plans for a new National Careers Service for England will leave millions of young people without face-to-face careers guidance at a time of shrinking job opportunities and a rapidly changing educational landscape, according to the Institute of Career Guidance.

The new service will also leave thousands of highly skills careers professionals without jobs, losing invaluable expertise at a time when young people need it the most.

The new All Age Careers Service for England, first announced in November 2010, will replace the current Connexions service for young people and Next Step for adults with an online and telephone advice service for the vast majority.

Only priority groups such as young people with special needs or those deemed to be vulnerable will qualify for face-to-face guidance, unless schools can afford to buy in these services. There is no new money; the budget for the National Careers Service will be found from what is currently spent on Next Step and the existing help lines.

Schools will have a duty (from September 2012) to provide independent and impartial careers services for their pupils. But schools will have no extra money for this and early indications from an Institute of Career Guidance (ICG) survey of members are that many schools will not be able to afford to buy in face-to-face guidance. The Government is saying that simply directing young people to the online and telephone-based services satisfies the legal requirements for impartial, independent advice. Meanwhile, local authorities continue to have a statutory duty to provide careers IAG (information, advice and guidance) services. But the ICG survey shows that many are shirking their duties and closing down the entire Connexions service, leaving tens of thousands of young people with no access to careers guidance.

ICG President Steve Higginbotham said: "The grim reality is that hundreds of thousands (and possibly millions) of young people will never get access to personalised impartial career guidance, having to rely on the national telephone helpline or website. Now we know why Government has stood on the sidelines as Connexions services have been systematically dismantled and advisers have joined their former clients in the dole queue, because in future there will no longer be a need for many careers advisers.

"The government has made much play of professionalising career guidance, but this will be of little comfort when most of the workforce have gone. The prospects for young people needing professional advice and guidance is bleak because there will be few left who can provide it. Instead I foresee a return to schools-based advice from teachers who are not qualified in careers guidance - exactly what recent surveys have criticised.

"We urge Government to give itself time to take stock on the impact of the new model on young people's services before enacting the changes".
 
UNISON senior national officer, Jon Richards, said the plans for a new careers service are "set up to fail, high on rhetoric and low on detail. The only clear detail is the drastically reduced resources available.

"With current services evaporating before our eyes, the lack of any transition plan that would ensure compliance with statutory duties in the meantime, or details on service level agreements, makes it look like the government are fiddling while Rome burns".

Michael Gove, the education secretary, said schools were "very well placed to provide careers advice".

"Independent schools use a wide range of services and advice. We know that Connexions hasn't been effective," he said.

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