Careers guidance made national news today – or rather the lack of it (

It seems we’re not just poor at educating our kids (see my previous blog) we are just as poor at preparing them for life in the big bad world of work.

The President of the Institute of Career Guidance (ICG), Dr Deirdre Hughes warned that there is a generation leaving university now that hasn’t had the benefit of a high-quality careers education.

No shit, Sherlock! It hasn’t changed since I left school many moons ago when, despite my passion for writing and a determined ambition to become a journalist, my careers advisor suggested that might be too difficult to get into and that I should consider a career as a librarian instead. I suspect those of you who know me are ROFLYAO right now.

Dr Hughes says young people aren’t developing the knowledge and skills of the labour market and she’s right; it’s a wider issue than just helping academic students fill out university applications or advising the not so academic kids how to find the nearest benefits office.

Careers advice needs to start in primary school. Call it something else, something more exciting and intriguing to little people, but start educating them about work, teaching them at an early age how to consider information and then make decisions, and encouraging them to develop confidence in themselves and their abilities.

When second year pupils are faced with making subject choices, they should be able to do so themselves; without pressure from parents and teachers, and with as much information as possible about the potential business application of the subjects they are choosing. They need to be able to make choices based on the subjects they like best, not just the ones they are good at, because they are not always the same thing. I’d love to see a Myers-Briggs type psychological profile developed for specifically for kids when they are making these life-molding subject and career choices.

In Scotland we already have a strong focus on entrepreneurship education, which is great. Presenting entrepreneurship as a career choice is hugely important, as is giving students practical experience and access to successful entrepreneurs who can share their knowledge, passion, enthusiasm and ambition.

But not everyone can be or wants to be an entrepreneur and we need to revamp how we demonstrate other workplace opportunities in a more compelling way than we do currently with lame “Take your kid to work” days, and half-hearted attempts to encourage “work experience”, which neither benefit the pupil nor the company.

Pupils also need to be able to consider their choices against a backdrop picture of the economy now, and in the future. They need to know where the skills gaps are now and where they will be, to know about trends in technology and science and manufacturing. They need to know where in the world the best jobs in their chosen career will be so they can choose languages accordingly.

This link to trends in business, technology, social media, engineering, manufacturing etc is missing right now. It needs to be introduced in schools and it needs to be introduced into universities, who must tailor their courses according to what business and industry needs now and anticipates for the future. We don’t need more lawyers or accountants, we need more technologists, chemists and scientists, so adjust student intake and introduce new courses accordingly.

Students in secondary and tertiary education need to be taught how to market themselves, how to build a portfolio of skills and experience, where to look for jobs (newspapers are no longer the best source for adverts), how to demonstrate their advantage over others, and how to engage effectively with potential employers.

Last month the Department for Children Schools and Families said it will launch a careers profession taskforce with a goal to create “a careers workforce fit for the 21st Century”.

I have to say, I’d love a non-exec role in that organisation. Call me!