Why is careers advice so important? Jane Scott Paul on young people’s needs today

Anthony Haynes writes: This week is Professions Week in the UK. I’m delighted to introduce this highly topical guest post from AAT Chief Executive,  Jane Scott Paul OBE.

22 Oct 13 JSP photoCareers advice is back in the spotlight after a research report, ‘Life as a Professional; what do 14-19 year-old really think?’ released on behalf of Professions Week (21-27 October) showed that 40% of 14-19 year-olds surveyed had not received any sort of careers advice in the last 12 months.

In a digital age, where we can access information easily, why does this matter? Surely, there should be greater responsibility put on the individual to find their own path?

The research looked at the legal, business, learning and development, financial, engineering, communications and construction professions. Whilst nearly all respondents had heard of each of these fields (over 90%); their awareness was much lower when asked if they knew what different jobs in each professional occupation involved.

However, where the research became more worrying is that three-quarters said they felt it was unlikely they could become a professional in the fields surveyed. The reasons they gave were not being suited, lacking the right qualifications, or thinking it would be too difficult. But three-quarters again thought a university degree would be the basic entry-requirement, which suggests they were not making decisions based on fact.

The real issue is that individuals are self-identifying that they’re not able to do certain jobs without actually knowing whether it’s a possibility. And this is very much where careers advice fills the gap. To a degree, you would only find out about entry routes into an occupation if you knew it existed in the first place.

A successful working life isn’t also necessarily achieved by basing your career choice on subjects you did best at in school. People may have soft skills, which may not necessarily be picked up through an exam process. It’s about thinking about what you enjoy and your personal strengths. This is where advice and guidance comes in with a trained professional who can ask the right questions.

Our young people are making decisions about their future in a difficult economy: there are high levels of youth unemployment and university fees are at a record high. We have to be supporting them through the transition from education into the workforce by ensuring they’re aware of all the career options open to them.

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