Campaigners call for quality advice
TEENAGERS are launching a campaign to improve the careers advice and work experience opportunities offered to thousands of young people across Staffordshire.
The move comes just as major national changes are being introduced this month, making individual schools responsible for ensuring pupils have access to 'independent and impartial' advice and guidance.
Although many schools plan to continue using local authority personal advisers, they won't receive additional funding for the work.
Teenagers fear it could create a postcode lottery, with some students getting high-quality support and others the bare minimum.
Now Staffordshire's Youth Action Kouncil (YAK) is to investigate the issue and pass on its findings to Staffordshire County Council and secondary schools.
The campaign will also involve creating a database of work experience opportunities for pupils, featuring feedback from young people themselves.
It will be similar to the Trip Advisor website, which gets holidaymakers to rate their experience of staying in different places.
Sixteen-year-old Paige Mountford, a YAK member from the south of the county, said: "Young people can say if they have had a really good experience or if they have just ended up making the tea."
There are around 90,000 11-to-18 year olds living in the county council's area. YAK is the main organisation representing their views and it regularly meets with key decision-makers.
Its previous campaigns have led to improvements in anti-bullying policies and the introduction of the 'Your Staffordshire' card which gives discount bus travel to teenagers.
YAK member Joe Porter said careers advice was one of the top concerns raised by young people. The 16-year-old, from Endon, added: "There are people who are not getting enough information. We want young people to have a better service."
Maddy Rogers, aged 17, from Madeley, said: "It's partly about getting the advice at the right time. You might see a personal adviser when you pick your options in year nine and then not see them again until year 11.
"I also think it's important to have face-to-face advice."
Their other ideas for the campaign include staging a careers fair.
And Maddy said they would also be urging schools to continue with work experience. From this month, it is no longer compulsory to offer work placements to all 14 to 16-year-olds.
"The people who need the experience the most are the ones who won't do it," said Maddy. "The really motivated people will organise it themselves."
Earlier this year, a taskforce of county councillors also raised concerns about the future of careers advice in schools.
Its report said the service could become 'fragmented', making it harder to monitor the support offered to pupils.
There are also fears some schools will steer students towards their own sixth forms, rather than give them information on the full range of options after GCSEs.
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