If you go to university in the dark you’ll get a nasty surprise

With competition increasing among universities to fill places, this summer has seen what the Times calls ‘record numbers’ of students with lower grades being offered a place at top universities. This of course is good news. What’s not such good news is that the majority of these poor souls will skip off to university in the dark thinking they have it made, yet unaware that the biggest hurdle is not getting into university but getting a job after they leave. (47% of students who graduated in 2012 are still looking for a graduate level job. Most of them will never enter the graduate workforce.) As the students before them will have discovered, it is rather a nasty surprise.

Universities may be scrambling over each other to take advantage of the relaxation of intake rules, due to be fully scrapped in 2015, which means they can up their limits on admissions, but this is only going exasperate the already glaring problem of helping these students to get good jobs at the end.

The last thing we want is to increase the number of graduates unemployed or working in jobs that don’t need a degree. It simply makes the time and money they invest in university a waste. If we are going to relax admission rules and cram more unsuspecting undergraduates into these institutions then we need to do so alongside a clear and workable plan to help them get good jobs at the end. This is even more important given that the Times report shows that the increase in the number of students with A level grades of BBB and BBC was higher than those with all A* or A’s. Among the winners was a higher number of students from poor backgrounds: 1.8 per cent of those who receive free school meals found themselves with more offers from top universities.

The work we must now turn our attention to is to provide these students with high quality careers support and jobs for them to go to. This is ironic because just this week the Times also reported on Michael Gove’s attack on careers advisors: he says they are to blame for youth unemployment. That’s rich. The government should be helping to ensure graduates have jobs to go to but instead is blaming careers advisors for its own failure.

Gove said careers advisors have ‘failed to prevent high youth unemployment’ but are ‘still lobbying for more funding to work in schools’. He also rejected calls to bring back one-to-one careers advice in schools, arguing instead that good teaching is the answer to getting a good job.

There were some good things in his speech to the Commons Education Select Committee, such as calling for more links between schools and businesses, and more business professionals to share their knowledge in schools, but we agree with comments by the committee chairman, Mr Graham Stuart, that removing ‘a pupil’s right to face-to-face careers advice’ is only going to make ‘a bad situation worse’.

While we agree that inept careers advice can contribute to high youth unemployment – we have seen and heard some shocking examples of the type of careers advice given to graduates who have come to us because they are still struggling to find a job a year or more after graduating – we also believe that an essential and missing part of the equation is the creation of more graduate level positions. That’s down to the government and not universities or careers advisors.

‘Mr Gove said that no one had yet offered an example of good school careers advisors operating in another country — or at any time in England’s past,’ said the Times. We believe it may be a question of what you are looking at.

Graduate Coach has a hundred per cent success record in coaching graduates to get top jobs, many of whom have been let down in the past by poor careers advice.

It includes those who went off to university in the dark and got a nasty surpise, having been previously told that the road to a good job is simply to go to university. Many have seen the light a little too late, stumbling from job interview to rejection and back again.

It is time this stopped.

Career advice heading for cliff edge?

As a graduate or a parent of a graduate it must be pretty worrying to read such headlines as that covering the CBI’s prognosis on the future of career advice: that it is “heading towards a cliff-edge”.

What will happen if it goes over?

With varying standards in the quality of career advice across schools, colleges and universities in the UK, neither graduates nor their parents have any real idea whether the advice they receive is worth anything at all.

How well is it helping you to prepare for the increasingly competitive world of graduate employment?

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the UK’s leading business organisation, which speaks for around 240,000 businesses, says many are failing.

They join the many other voices from education and business raising concerns over graduate preparedness for the workforce, including those in under staffed university careers departments struggling to keep up with the numbers. They would like to offer graduates more than just the nominal CV look-over and list of possible careers but one to one personal advice is impossible for most.

And yet there has never been a greater need for quality careers advice and support, particularly in light of statistics showing that a third of graduates are under-employed in jobs that do not need a degree because they can’t find graduate level employment.

The CBI warns that careers guidance is facing a crisis with too great a focus on traditional routes. Young people are still funnelled towards A Level and university choices, while many alternative options, from apprenticeships and vocational qualifications to starting their own businesses, are largely ignored.

Their warning is based on the results of a survey of 2000 14-25 year olds, conducted using the Life Skills Youth Barometer created by Barclay’s.

It showed that just a quarter (26%) of young people received information on starting an apprenticeship and only 17% were advised on what vocational qualifications were available.

These routes are looked on as better ways for graduates to develop the high level employability skills employers want. But these skills can and should be encouraged even on an academic programme if graduates are given the proper support or advice on how to develop them.

The survey showed that there was little guidance on post-education routes, such as starting your own business (9%) and working for a small business (12%). In fact, one in ten (11.8%) received no advice on what options are available to help them develop their employability skills in other ways.

“Careers guidance in England’s schools is heading towards a cliff-edge,”

“Advice is scarce for young people not interested in being funnelled towards A Levels and university and exciting, potential life-changing career alternatives are being lost.”

“There is a worrying shortage of skills in some of our key industries and if we don’t give young people the information they need to find apprenticeships or sign up to high-quality vocational training, this will only get worse.”

Neil Carberry, CBI director for employment and skills policy.