Are your future career prospects being threatened, or even damaged by academic snobbery? According to a recent report from the Committee on Social Mobility, the majority of young people are being “overlooked and left behind” because of a focus on A levels and university at school. Over half of all young people (53%) don’t go to university before heading out to find work, however, the Committee argued, this majority are pretty-much left to fend for themselves when it comes to decent careers advice that suits and supports them.
Such a damning report has cast light on how young people are advised when it comes to their career choices - as the chair of the Social Mobility Committee, Baroness Corston, stated, “We have found that without being taught life skills, given the right support, access to work experience and robust, independent careers advice, we are in danger of trapping these young people in low-skilled, low-paid work, with little chance of a rewarding career.”
With teachers having to step in to provide careers advice, is it any wonder that a more academic route is often promoted to young people. This has seen a rise in the number of young people going to university, despite tuition fees and the fact that around one-third of graduates fail to land a graduate-level or professional job when they leave.
Clearly, rather than pushing young people towards potentially unsuitable career paths, it would be best to provide clear advice as to all the options available, so that an informed choice can be made by everyone?
The Committee argued that careers advice should be provided by independent careers experts rather than schools or colleges, while Baroness Corston also called for clearer advice, saying, “A young person considering their options for further education or employment is presented with gobbledygook. It is totally unclear to them how they can get the skills needed for a successful career. It is also unclear to the people in their lives giving them advice and support in making these crucial decisions.”
Apprenticeships are certainly making a difference, and with more apprentices returning to speak at the former schools and colleges, they can hopefully start to show at least one viable alternative to the academic route.
With the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy it is hoped that this route will become one that is trusted by employers and young people alike – with a brand as strong as that held by A levels. To create this level of understanding and trust will take work and funding.
In fact, funding isn’t just an issue for apprentices, but also for further education colleges, with estimates saying university students get over £6,000 per year more of government funding than their peers at further education colleges.
Baroness Corston asserted, “The huge difference in funding between the academic and non-academic route into work is something that the Government must look at if we are to give all our young people an equal chance at succeeding in life. Simply put, young people choosing not to go to university are not invested in as they should be.”
The Social Mobility Committee certainly raised a lot of questions about careers advice and the different routes into work – not to mention how this impacts most young people.
Alice Barnard, chief executive of education charity Edge, noted, “Despite making up the majority of the future workforce, young people who take some form of vocational education when they leave school receive much less attention and investment than students who take A levels and go to university.”
While we will continue to do what we can to help promote alternative routes (check out our search tab to look at a range of career and training options where you live) – it seems that the government are also taking note.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We will invest £70million in our careers strategy over the course of this parliament to transform the quality of careers education. We have also set up the Careers & Enterprise Company to bring young people into contact with employers and develop closer links with employers so they can play a greater role in preparing young people for the world of work.”
The fact is, young people just want to know what is best for them and their careers – regardless of whether that means university or a vocational route. So long as it gets you where you want to be and is suited to your needs, does it matter if that means university or not?
Not going to university doesn’t mean that you are stupid or any lesser as a person, it is just a different choice - as our 17-year-old campaign manager, Martha, explained, “At school there was only the option of going to sixth form, not leaving and finding a job. A few people were told they should do apprenticeships, but mostly they told us to get more qualifications. I wanted to focus on work, not homework and revision.”
She explained, “I always did well in exams – I got eight GCSEs – but the thought of sitting in a classroom for another two years... I couldn’t have done it. I just wanted to crack on” - and surely nobody should be punished for that?