Careers advisors are “self-interested” parties who talk “garbage”, says Gove

Janet Downs's picture
‘Ofsted has found that the new arrangements for providing careers guidance to young people are not working well in three quarters of schools. Do you agree with the Skills Commission that provision of careers advice is now in “crisis”?’

Ian Mearns MP,  Education Select Committee* 18 December 2013, question to Education Secretary, Michael Gove.

Gove’s reply, roughly summarised, was:

1         Careers advice has never been any good.

2         Labour market is changing rapidly.

3         Employers can do the job better.

Most extraordinary was Gove’s assertion, described by the Guardian as “bizarre”, that the call for professional, independent careers advisers was driven by the "self-interested" careers lobby which comprised people who "lack intellectual rigour" and talk "garbage". 

Gove was asked if the Education Select Committee’s own report on careers was “garbage”.  Gove denied this but repeated his accusation.  When asked to name names, he replied he’d “said enough”.

Perhaps this “self-interested” lobby is in the same category as Gove’s “surveys” and visits to phantom schools.

But is Gove right that careers advice has always been poor and employers can do it better?


And here I declare an interest – I was responsible for delivering careers education in my secondary school so what follows is my opinion based on experience**.

There once was an initiative called TVEI (Technical and Vocational Educational Initiative).  It was the brainchild of Conservative politician Kenneth, now Lord, Baker and was designed to provide broad, work-related education to all pupils aged from 14 including those in academic streams.  TVEI is often regarded to have failed and perhaps it did because careers education in schools is worse now than it was then.

But as far as schools in my TVEI cluster were concerned, TVEI was a success.  It showed the importance of an integrated work-related programme.  At my school this comprised:

1         Careers education as part of Personal and Social Education.

2         Individual, face-to-face interviews with a properly-trained, independent careers advisor.

3         Work experience for all pupils in the last year of compulsory education.

4         Activities such as small group meetings between pupils interested in a particular career and an employer or employee, mock interviews and an Industry Day.

5         Access to a well-stocked careers library.

In addition, pupils on certain courses, particularly Business Studies, would investigate local firms and set up their own mini-enterprise companies.

These activities relied on help from the local authority’s careers service and local employers.

Now consider Gove’s lame substitute for the above: pop-in visits by employers.  A rich diet replaced by thin gruel.

Lord Baker’s initiative was forward-looking and admirable.  What a pity it’s regarded as a failure.  And his alternative of University Technology Colleges and Studio Schools for a few pupils from age 14 still divides vocational and academic education whatever the hype to the contrary.  TVEI’s unique selling points were its targeting of all pupils and the bringing together of schools, careers services, further/higher education and employers.



*Uncorrected evidence.

**I can provide no external, reliable evidence about whether the schools in the local TVEI cluster were typical or not.
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