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Parents fill in ‘guidance gap’ over career advice for school-leavers

53 percent of parents felt they were the biggest influence on their children’s post A-Level education and career choices, more than their child’s friends and careers advisers'; 79 percent of parents felt that their child did not have a clear idea of what they wanted to do after finishing education; Over three quarters of parents felt that extra-curricular activities were just as important as academic activity. With A-Level results released this week, over half of parents say they will have the biggest influence over their child’s next steps, but most aren’t fully aware of the non-university options available, reveals new research from graduate recruitment company, GTI media, and professional services firm, EY.

The YouGov survey of 1,018 parents looked at their role in giving careers guidance; their attitude towards schools; and whether young people are adequately prepared for the workplace. When asked to rank who had the biggest influence over their children’s education and career decisions, the majority of parents – 53 percent – felt they had the biggest influence. This was followed by teachers on 23 percent and their children’s friends on 23 percent. Careers advisers were ranked in fourth place with 21 percent. However more than half of parents (64 percent) recognised that they needed better information and called for more resources to help them to support their children at this important juncture. In addition to this, only 1 percent of parents said they knew ‘a lot’ about school leaver programmes; only 6 percent knew of ‘vocational further education courses’; and only 9 percent were fully aware of apprenticeships or higher apprenticeship programmes’.

Maggie Stilwell, Managing Partner for Talent at EY, comments: “The survey results suggest that there is a ‘guidance gap’ between what parents expect their role to be and the knowledge they have at their disposal. “While parents are aware of their influential position over such an important decision, they are looking to be better armed with resources to help ensure they are able to give the best advice possible. In the absence of information and awareness about alternative career routes, such as an apprenticeships or school-leaver schemes, university can often become the default option.”

University continues to be promoted as favoured career route

The survey also looked at the perception of careers advice that young people received.  Of those surveyed, 25 percent of parents were not aware of any career advice given to their child at school, and over half (51 percent) stated their child had received ‘some but not enough’. In addition to this, over three quarters (79 percent) of parents felt that their child didn’t have a clear idea of what to do after leaving school or college. According to the survey, university continues to be the most promoted career route by schools with 37 percent of parents stating that their child’s school ‘promotes the university route as the best route to take’.

Matt Dacey, Director of Products and Services at GTI Media, added: “The research highlights the extent to which parents and schools still see university as a default route for young people. Employers are having difficulty in promoting alternatives to university, particularly at a time when professions from accountancy and financial services through to engineering are looking to increase their school leaver intake through the creation of exciting new alternatives. The need to engage and support parents with information about these would seem more important than ever.” Maggie comments: “Regardless of whether students ultimately opt for university, a school leaver scheme, apprenticeship or another route entirely, it’s important that they are able to make well informed choices about their career path. This requires parents, schools and employers to work together to fill the current perceived guidance gap.

Parents concerned by employability skills

Like many employers, parents recognise the importance of work experience and other extra-curricular activities as a means of young people developing skills that will later benefit them in the workplace. Over three quarter of parents (76 percent) stated that ‘what their child does outside school is as important to their development as formal education’. Despite this, only 39 percent of parents’ surveyed said their children had a paid part-time job or worked as a volunteer. Maggie comments:  “As the competition for talent increases, it is ever more important for school-leavers to have developed key life skills such as communication and collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving. These are some of the strengths that we look for as part of our recruitment processes. “This doesn’t have to mean a month-long internship though, or a gap year in Tibet. These are skills that can be honed at a Saturday job in a supermarket or even on the school football or netball team.”

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