Investing in careers: What is career guidance worth?

Today I am with my co-authors Chris Percy and Siobhan Neary, presenting the new iCeGS paper in parliament with the aim of engaging policy makers in thinking about, and ultimately funding and improving the career guidance system.

The new paper is available to download for those that are interested in reading it in full.

About the paper

In the paper we explore how career guidance can support individuals and groups to discover more about work, leisure and learning and to consider their place in the world and plan for their futures. We note that effective career guidance is associated with a range of economic and social benefits and argue that ultimately higher employment, better skills alignment, increased productivity and improved employee engagement pay off at the national level for government, in terms of a well-functioning economy and improved tax returns.

Career guidance can be aimed at young people and others in education, those in work, those out of work, including people who are economically inactive, and older workers considering when to retire. It aims to offer people new opportunities and inspiration, to help them to realise their potential and make choices that will help them build happy and successful lives and contribute to their community.

We discuss the strengths of the current career guidance system in England and argue that it has several strengths as it builds on a long tradition of provision, is publicly funded, supported by a skilled profession and a growing evidence base. However, it is also short of funding, lacks coherence and consistency, offers limited and patchy access and has to deal with low public awareness of career guidance. It is also increasingly facing recruitment and retention issues within the workforce.

To address these shortcoming we argue that the Career Development Policy Group‘s proposal for a Career Guidance Guarantee is what is needed. We then go on to cost the Guarantee and compart it to existing funding.

Costing the Career Guidance Guarantee

We have done extensive costing work to estimate how much the government is currently spending on career guidance and to compare that to the level of spend in 2009. We estimate the figures as follows.

  • We currently spend £68 per person, per year on the delivery of career guidance to young people. The equivalent figure in 2009 (adjusted for inflation) was £159.
  • We currently spend £26 per person, per year on the delivery of career guidance to adults. The equivalent figure in 2009 (adjusted for inflation) was £35.

The level of investment is one of the major issues that career guidance in England faces. However, it is not the only one. Funding is currently highly fragmented and dependent on a series of local decisions in schools, colleges, universities and local authorities. There is a desperate need to manage funding more strategically to ensure greater consistency.

The career guidance workforce has also been depleted and the system has been de-professionalised. There is a need to take actions to improve quality and strengthen the professionalism of the system.

The Career Guidance Guarantee represents is a thought through and costed plan to achieve the improvements that are needed. To implement it in full we would need to spend an additional £315m on youth careers services and an additional £235m on adult careers services. This equates to an average additional spend of £47 per person on career guidance for young people and an additional £6 per head on working age adults. This represents a very modest new investment, which when combined with the other reforms in the Career Guidance Guarantee would lead to a much more effective system.

Return on investment

There is a strong and growing evidence base on career guidance. Robust studies have found impacts on attitudes and behaviours, NEET levels, increased likelihood of disadvantaged young people enrolling in higher education, improved employment levels and higher income.

If, as the evidence suggests, the Career Guidance Guarantee led to an uplift of around 5% in salary for at least 1% of the population, it would pay for itself in terms of the increased tax revenue being paid to the Exchequer. Given this, it is important that spending on career guidance is viewed as an investment in the human capital of the country.

More emergent evidence on the return on investment of career guidance suggests that for every pound spent on youth guidance the country can expect to receive £2.50. While for every pound spent on guidance with unemployed adults the figure is £3.20.

I hope that you enjoy this paper and find it useful in any conversations that you have with funders, policymakers and other decision makers.

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