News: Mayor vs careers advisers

Sunday 18 September 2011 20:04

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone recently created a great deal of controversy by questioning how good UK careers advisers are at helping the female population enter non-stereotypical careers.

Livingstone, who was addressing delegates at the annual State of London Debate in May, said he believed that careers services suffer from "backwards thinking".

"All our studies show the backward thinking of people in careers advice," Livingstone said. "They see a young girl come through the door, they immediately think caring, teaching, nursing. I mean, this is ridiculous. What we're beginning to see now is it's not easy and a lot of women are having a hard struggle as they go through it, women coming into key financial positions in the city accessing that world. Therefore this presumption about where you steer women to work has got to go. And in our schools, from the very early beginnings we have got to make certain that all our youngsters are aware of the jobs that are going to be available, and are getting the skills for them."

However, Chris Evans, executive director of the Institute of Career Guidance, said he was "extremely disappointed" with Livingstone's comments. "Guidance professionals actively challenge all kinds of stereotyping on a daily basis in their work with young people and adults. I think that the Mayor certainly has his facts wrong - perhaps he should speak with careers advisers to make a genuine assessment of the contribution we make to eliminating stereotypical attitudes of clients as well as those of parents, employers and so on."

For a copy of the full transcript, visit the State of London Debate website w


The Equal Opportunities Commission's "Moving on up?" investigation has uncovered some disturbing findings about Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Black Caribbean women in today's workplaces. Despite their qualifications, Bangladeshi and Pakistani women with a degree and seeking work are five times more likely to be unemployed than white British women with a degree.

In addition, there are fewer Black Caribbean women with no qualifications at all than there are for women or men from any other ethnic group, yet they are twice as likely to be unemployed as white British women. And one in three Black Caribbean women under 35 and one in five Bangladeshi and Pakistani women have experienced racist comments at work.

In an attempt to overcome the problem, the EOC has launched its "Promote People not Stereotypes" campaign, which focuses on Asian and black women who have succeeded, as well as offering practical advice for professionals including careers advisers.

EOC chief executive Caroline Slocock explains that many of the women featured in the campaign "had negative experiences of careers advice in their youth".

"I had absolutely no career advice at school," confirms Nahid Majid OBE who works at the Welfare and Poverty Directorate Department for Work and Pensions. She is currently the most senior Bangladeshi Muslim woman in the civil service.

However, Slocock is quick to point out that the campaign is not an attempt to vilify careers advisers. "Both employers and professionals like careers advisers say they want to do more to improve the situation, but they don't know practically where to start," says Slocock. "The purpose of the campaign is to give them a head start."

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Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education Bill Rammell has outlined proposals to improve information, advice and guidance regarding Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects for young people.

To meet the needs of the economy and to underpin the country's science and engineering base, the Government intends to increase the number of young people studying STEM subjects. Part of the plan will see careers information about STEM professions becoming more readily available to young people, teachers and parents. Rammell said, "We are acting on the Leitch recommendations for skills and employer engagement and are determined to expand on the distinctive role of STEM subjects in producing highly skilled and employable graduates, enabling the UK plc to compete globally."

Universities, however, are being accused are "sexing up" science degrees to attract students rather than train them for the "real world of laboratory work". This is causing them to move into teaching as they find the reality of work less exciting than expected.

Research from the Training and Development Agency found one in 10 science graduates will end up teaching the subject, with 49 per cent considering a future career in teaching. Mark Johnson, HR director at forensics science company Orchid Cellmark, is among those who accuses universities of "conning" graduates into choosing forensic science with the promise of working on issues such as criminal investigation. But the reality is the job often involves analytical and repetitive laboratory tasks. "Universities are conning people into taking forensic science degrees - they are trying to sell courses so they 'sex them up'," Johnson said. "For many, their knowledge is not applicable to the industry. It's an easy option to go into teaching as at least then they are using the subject they've been taught."


The Universities of Strathclyde, Paisley and Napier are collaborating to develop a new Masters in Career Guidance and Development that will start in September. The course has been developed in response to demand from the sector and has a strong emphasis on practice-based learning. "Careers Scotland fully supports the development of this new professional training course and is working with the universities to ensure that it meets the needs of the career guidance sector ,both now and in the future," says Danny Logue, who is the interim director of Careers Scotland Scottish Enterprise.

Car manufacturer Rolls-Royce has just launched the company's first ever graduate programme. The programme will provide up to 15 graduates with the opportunity to join the manufacturer of the world's best known luxury cars. Successful candidates will join a two-year programme designed to develop their skills, with the guidance of senior management mentors. Potential career paths include manufacturing, engineering, facilities management, sales and marketing, corporate communications, finance and information technology. The programme includes cross-functional placements which could be based in the UK or even internationally.

More than eight in 10 working organisations are anticipating difficulties ahead in finding quality people to fill vacancies, according to the latest findings from the Recruitment Confidence Index (RCI). The lack of confidence in not being able to find skilled staff currently stands at its highest level since the RCI - produced by Cranfield School of Management in association with Personnel Today - began back in December 1999. The sectors reporting most difficulty have consistently been engineering and computing.


The DfES is proposing that Connexions should be extended to cover more youth support services. Its document, Connexions Brand Guidelines for Local Authorities, aims to examine issues that local authorities may face when they take responsibility for IAG services in April 2008. Although no firm decision has been made as to the future of the Connexions brand, many have expressed concern for this approach. There are fears that if some services are linked to closely to Connexions this will deter young people from using them.

Arts students are likely to earn £50,000 less than other graduates during their first five years of employment, according to the annual UK graduate careers survey from High Fliers Research. But this may partly be their own making, with the report finding that over half said they had "no definite plans" for life after university. Just 27 per cent of arts and humanities graduates expect to find a job after graduating, compared with 62 per cent of IT students and 58 per cent in engineering.

Record numbers of black, Asian, female and non-Oxbridge graduates have been recruited onto the Civil Service's Fast Stream programme. Eleven per cent of successful candidates in 2006 were from ethnic minorities, up from seven per cent in 2005. Meanwhile, 50 per cent of successful candidates were women in 2006, an increase from 44 per cent. The statistics also show the Civil Service is extending its reach in attracting graduates from beyond traditional Oxbridge education, which accounted for 31 per cent of candidates recommended for appointment.

The NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme has won the Best of the Best award from the Association of Graduate Recruiters, as well as the award for best in Recruitment and Assessment. The scheme was acclaimed for communicating a strong link between cultural values and recruitment competencies, as well as for its verification process involving senior managers, scheme alumni and trainees.


Britain is still some way off closing the skills gap, according to research from school careers information service The service questioned 1,700 children on their attitudes to working life and how they are preparing for it.

Children are well motivated and well intentioned, the survey found, but they do not make the best choices. Media influences are distorting their career aspirations in favour of high-profile jobs. The research suggests that major skills shortages are likely to persist, especially in skilled trades, IT and caring professions; other areas will see a surplus.

Seventy-eight per cent of respondents listed good pay as their principal motivator in picking a career. Capitalising on their skills was the second most important factor influencing their choice - with 62 per cent choosing this option.

Tanja Kuveljic, managing director of, said, "The desire for fame and fortune is deeply ingrained in our young people. Of course, most children know that they are unlikely to become the next Beckham or Beyoncé and simply enjoy the fantasy. Nevertheless, the entertainment industry is exerting a huge influence on young people in subtler ways; so much so that it is distorting the choices they are making to prepare themselves for working life. There is a strong preference for jobs which receive a high profile on television and in films - doctors, vets, paramedics, lawyers, policemen and chefs. This is the 'cool careers culture'. Less glamorous jobs and those which are poorly paid are ignored. But young people are also acutely aware of the need to acquire the right skills. The difficulty for them is in identifying early enough what those might be." calculated what the workforce would look like if children did realise their ambitions. It then compared this workforce to the economy to see where there would be an oversupply of workers and where we would see the biggest skills shortages. The figures show that for every five builders or agricultural workers needed, there would be only two available. For every four care workers needed, there would only be one available. By contrast, there might be as many as 44 vets, or eight architects for each job required.

Significantly, the survey found that two-fifths of 16-year-olds say they don't have any idea what they want to do career-wise and they don't know where to find information. Less than half use their schools' careers centre and find it helpful. Over a third have not even set foot in it.

Top Ten Most-wanted Jobs

1 Actor/actress

2 Sportsman/sportswoman

3 Lawyer (barrister/solicitor)

4 Accountant

5 Teacher/lecturer

6 Doctor

7 Beauty therapist

8 Singer/musician

9 Designer

10 Police force


The graduate recruitment market is continuing to thrive, according to the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR). Their Graduate Recruitment survey for 2007 reveals that vacancies for graduate-level positions are anticipated to rise for the fourth consecutive year, by 12.7 per cent. This is a significant increase on last year's actual rise in vacancies of 5.2 per cent.

Salaries for graduates entering the market in 2007 are predicted to increase by a modest 2.4 per cent, to a median starting salary of £23,500.

The report suggested that, despite the large number of vacancies offered, recruiters are confident they will be able to fill these roles without offering excessive, above-inflation salaries.

The survey is a bi-annual barometer of the employment situation for graduates in the UK and is based on the responses of 219 AGR members, which includes many of the country's largest graduate recruiters in both public and private sectors.

Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the AGR, said: "Graduates entering the market in 2007 can be optimistic about the opportunities available to them, with vacancies predicted to continue to rise. Although the salary increases predicted are fairly conservative, graduate salaries are already competitive in comparison to non-graduate entry-level salaries. This reflects the added value that graduates are perceived to bring to an organisation."

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