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National Careers Week 2024

Small group of people looking at laptops and talking

National Careers Week saw a wealth of inspirational stories and useful resources shared in schools and across social media. From BBC Bitesize and the Student Room to UCAS and Discover Uni, there is advice and guidance from experts to inspire and inform young people, to help them figure out what career they might want to pursue and how to get there.

To help drive social mobility, it’s vital that people throughout the UK have access to good advice about all of the different opportunities that are open to them, most importantly while they’re at school and also as their careers develop. Whether someone chooses college, university or a scheme that combines work and training, they are all valuable ways to learn and train. Having a range of routes to gain qualifications is vital to building the skills the workforce needs and for individuals to access the labour market.

Our most recent State of the Nation report, highlighted that 21% of young people from the lowest working class group were not in employment, education or training (NEET) in 2021, a higher proportion than all other categories. Careers advice is particularly important for these young people, they may not feel that university is affordable or accessible to them, or may not feel well informed about other options or potential future earnings. This can have a long term impact, including being more likely to be unemployed and in lower wage jobs.

Our research has shown that many young people don’t feel informed enough about the potential earnings of many career options. In a survey of 1,257 sixth form students, over 60% said that a likely salary after graduation is important to them in helping to choose what and where to study. Worryingly, many didn’t know that potential salary information was available to them when considering their next steps. As well as salary information, the SMC also advocates for more information on the “value add” for different qualifications. This means comparing the return to earnings associated with studying a qualification compared to similar individuals who did not. Whilst university is often considered the traditional route to higher paying jobs, this is not always the case. Having access to this information is vital to help individuals make the choices that are right for them.

In addition to access to information, individuals also need access to opportunity and we know that opportunity is not equally spread across the country. Our State of the Nation report found some key differences were:

  • Densely populated urban areas have higher levels of economic insecurity for young people – unemployment, economic inactivity and lower working class jobs.
  • London and neighbouring areas have more promising prospects for young people, in terms of higher qualifications, earnings and occupational level, yet London also has high rates of young people in difficult economic circumstances.
  • Some areas, most notably South Yorkshire and Eastern Scotland, have challenges with both difficult economic circumstances and low employment prospects.

To support good job opportunities for all, we need to focus on growing opportunities throughout the UK and this is an area we will be exploring further through our policy and research work.

Clearly there are improvements to be made, in ensuring young people have access to good quality guidance on education and careers, so everyone has the same opportunities, regardless of their background or where they live.

To play our part, SMC is currently working on a report which aims to help young people and parents make informed decisions, and enable teachers to offer better advice. It will provide information about the impact of different qualifications on potential earnings, how earnings vary based on the choice of subject and institution, and signposting to relevant resources. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter for future updates on the report. 

Alongside this research, we’re working with businesses to help them understand how they can encourage social mobility by supporting employees from different backgrounds to build successful careers. We’ve run a number of masterclasses with businesses from our Employer Advisory Group (EAG), offering employers practical advice on how they can do the same in their own industries, creating a more diverse workforce and tapping into the labour market in their local communities.

To find out more about our work to improve social mobility, read our report on the value of higher and further education qualifications, watch a recent discussion about creating better employment opportunities, see regional data maps through our data explorer tool or visit our website.