Dear Editor, Former cabinet minister Alan Milburn’s Unleashing Aspiration report once again uses careers advice and the wider Connexions Service as a political football, with politicians on queuing up to kick lumps out of the standard of careers advice available to our young people.
When Connexions began, experienced careers advisers had their job titles and job descriptions ripped up and had new job descriptions and titles of Connexions personal adviser imposed against their will.
UNISON argued at the time that professionals working with young people should maintain their specialism, ie careers advice, youth worker, education social worker, and not be thrown into a huge melting pot to emerge as an all-singing, all-dancing personal adviser being made to fulfil a generic role in which careers advice was substantially watered down. Despite these warnings, this advice was ignored and it is only now that these errors are coming home to roost.
Careers advice is a profession in its own right and the dismantling of this role has led to an inevitable dumbing down, to the detriment of young people.
This Government’s preoccupation with driving down ‘NEET’ figures (young people Not in Education, Employment or Training) has led to valuable careers advice being neglected. Instead, personal advisers’ time is taken up trying to persuade NEET young people to go on short-term training courses often with, at best, limited job prospects at the end. In doing so, the all-important NEET figures are artificially reduced.
When you take resources away from a service, that service deteriorates and that has happened with careers advice within Connexions.
The Conservative party is not blameless either. It was the Major Government that took Careers Services out of local authority control in the 1990s, yet here in Birmingham it was the Conservatives, in league with the Lib-Dems, who took Connexions back into the local authority last year. The instability and uncertainty created after all these changes of control and direction have led to the break-up and weakening of a national careers service, with the service offered to young people varying according to local arrangements.
Within the Connexions Service there are many staff who had two years’ post-graduate training to become professionally qualified careers advisers. This expertise counted for nothing as all Connexions staff were forced away from offering a universal careers advice service to provide instead a targeted service aimed at those young people experiencing multiple difficulties in making the post-16 transition.
Offering additional support to those young people was badly needed but should never have been at the expense of the universal careers advice service. These are two separate jobs forced into one, to the detriment of young people.
Connexions UNISON stewards,