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“So you want to be an astronaut…”

Inadequate career advice leaves British workers unfulfilled, with two fifths saying they would have chosen different profession with better guidance.

New research released today sheds damning light on the effectiveness of career advice delivered in schools during recent decades. Despite three quarters of British adults receiving some vocational guidance, two thirds say it was not appropriate or useful. This rises to 73 percent among those aged 41 to 50. As a result, two thirds would have taken a different career path if they’d benefited from the right intervention when they were younger, according to a survey by Home Learning College*.

On a more heartening note, the findings reveal an improvement in the younger generation’s experience. In fact, 90 percent of those aged under 20 received career advice at school, with 44 percent saying it was appropriate. Parents are credited with giving the best advice by 25 percent of respondents, followed by teachers and university lecturers with 11 percent of the vote. Friends receive a positive mention from nine percent, with professional career advisers coming in a lowly fourth at just seven percent. However, a startling 40 percent of adults say no one has ever provided any useful career advice throughout their life.

The most fulfilled workers can be found in London, with just 35 percent saying they would have chosen a different route with better guidance. At the opposite end of the scale, 48 percent of adults in Wales would have done things differently if they had received appropriate career advice. “Many psychometric and on-line careers tools are based solely on interests which, surprisingly, are not the most important element for career decisions,” says Occupational Psychologist Sherridan Hughes. “Many young people don’t know what they want to do, and without scientific assessment it can be difficult to advise correctly and avoid picking ideas at random in the hopes that one may spark some interest.”

“It is important to consider innate talent and not just academic results, which can so easily be influenced by whether one likes the teacher and the effectiveness of the teaching. While many schools and colleges have introduced some psychometric input into careers counselling, there may still be a tendency to nominate one of the teachers as the careers person with minimal, if any, training. What pupils really need is a proper counselling consultation with a trained professional.”

“The advice we receive in our formative years can affect the choices we make throughout the rest of our lives,” says Dave Snow, Academic Director at Home Learning College. “However, it’s increasingly common to have more than one career throughout life. We all have the ability to positively change our circumstances. The key is to take advantage of the information and services available in order to stimulate personal and professional development.”
*Conducted among 2,000 British adults  

1 March 2011

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