By Anthony Mann and Glenda Quintini
Effective career guidance helps young people to realise their potential and prevent unemployment. It also stands to play a crucial role in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in many countries, young people are not receiving the support they need to plan their futures. Therefore, to mark World Youth Skills Day, the OECD, European Commission, Cedefop, European Training Foundation, International Labor Organisation and UNESCO are issuing a joint leaflet to highlight the importance of Investing in Career Guidance.
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Career guidance helps people of any age manage their careers and make the educational, training and occupational choices that are right for them. It is particularly important for young people as it helps them to reflect on their ambitions, interests, qualifications, skills and talents and to relate this knowledge about who they are to who they might become in the world of work.
Even prior to the pandemic, career guidance was receiving increased attention from policymakers, reflecting a concern that the skills developed in initial education might not be well aligned with emerging labour market needs, generating costly skill mismatches and shortages.
According to the 2018 results of the triennial OECD Programme for International Assessment (PISA), only half of students in OECD countries reported that they had spoken to a career guidance counsellor in school by the age of 15 (Figure 1), and fewer than 40% attended important guidance activities like job shadowing, workplace visits or job fairs. The aspirations of students are heavily shaped by socio-economic status, gender and migrant background. Investing in career guidance can help broaden young people’s aspirations and reduce inequalities in career choices. It can also help overcome career uncertainty about occupational choices, which increased by 81% between 2000 and 2018. When students do name the type of job in which they expect to work as an adult, relatively little evidence of labour market signalling is apparent. Across the OECD, more than half of teenagers around the world plan on working in one of ten occupations. Outside of the OECD, this proportion often rises to above 70%.
The need for guidance has increased sharply in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis has deeply disrupted the demand for workers and accelerated patterns of automation that are profoundly changing the character of work and increasing risks of unemployment, particularly for young people. As young people stay in schooling longer, and confront an ever wider choice of education and training options, it is essential that they can draw a clear connection between what they do in the classroom and who they might become in the workplace. The new joint leaflet argues that guidance has an essential role to play in enabling youth to navigate increasingly turbulent transitions. Career guidance has a fundamental role to play in the recovery.
The benefits of career guidance are widely documented. New analyses of national longitudinal datasets show that better-than-expected adult employment outcomes are commonly associated with how school-age teenagers think about their future careers, whether they explore possible employment options andgain work experience while still in school. Participation in career guidance by young adults has been associated with wage premiums, lower rates of unemployment and greater career satisfaction as well as increased academic motivation and more positive attitudes towards school.
The leaflet highlights a number of effective ways to enrich career guidance in schools, stressing the importance of access from an early age and of enriching guidance through the involvement of employers and people in work. As the COVID-19 pandemic ushers in a period of profound disruption, the need to close the gap between education and employment through effective guidance becomes ever more urgent.
To read the new joint leaflet, visit Investing in Career Guidance.
Musset, P. and L. Mytna Kurekova (2018), Working it out: Career Guidance and Employer Engagement.
Mann, A., Denis, V. and C. Percy (2020), Career Ready? How schools can better prepare young people for working life in the era of COVID-19.
Mann, A., Denis, V., Schleicher, A., Ekhtiari, H., Forsyth, T., Liu, E. and N. Chambers (2020), Dream Jobs: Teenagers’ Career Aspirations and the Future of Work.
OECD (2021), Career Guidance for Adults in a Changing World of Work.