“There is no doubt that all the surveys showed dissatisfaction with the careers advice given by Connexions.”

So said schools minister Nick Gibb in parliament yesterday. Strong words indeed! But is it really the case that all the surveys showed dissatisfaction with Connexions?

The most quoted survey is this one by the National Children’s Bureau (although many people get it confused with this one by the NYA which just quotes the NCB survey). According to the NCB survey “80.2% [of young people] found [formal careers services] to be ‘a little bit’ or ‘not at all helpful’.

The odd thing about this is that they only seem to give the young people surveyed a choice between ‘very’, ‘a little bit’ or ‘not at all’ helpful. What about plain old helpful? Then they have grouped ‘a little bit’ helpful with ‘not at all helpful’ when really these options could be polls apart! Does every careers interview need to be very helpful in order to be worthwhile?  If a young person goes into an interview with no idea what to do and comes out with some things to think about and some places to look for further information is this very helpful or a little bit helpful? Either way it’s still worthwhile.

The second thing no one seems to notice is that the survey doesn’t just talk about Connexions. All formal careers advice gets a thorough trouncing! And even fewer young people found the school careers service very helpful (17.8%) than the Connexions/community advice (20.6%). University careers advice wasn’t much better either (24.5%).

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So is all formal careers advice rubbish or is the survey somewhat dodgy? It’s certainly not as clear cut as Mr Gibb would like to think.

This document might be pretty negative but do all surveys show dissatisfaction with Connexions? This 2011 survey from the National Youth Agency found the complete opposite to the NCB survey- 80% of young people found careers advice in school useful. Looking just at Connexions just over 60% found it useful (see page 11).

The 2011 NYA survey also found that young people find parents the best source of advice- and this is supposed to be a bad thing! 26% of young people found that parents were the most useful source of advice and if your parents are clued up they’re hard to beat! Available 24/7, they have your best interests at heart and might even be able to offer you a job themselves! However for the just under 11% who found parents least useful formal careers advice might be vital!.

One fact in the 2011 NYA surveywhich isn’t highlighted much is that fewer than 20% of people thought Youth workers were a good source of advice (page 11). This directly contradicts their 2010 publication “Face-to-face” which claimed that:
‘Youth workers’ and ‘teachers/school’ were most commonly referred to as the best place or person to get IAG, rather than ‘an expert’. (Page 5)
Face-to-face was a study of only 79 young people and seemed to get most of its publicity by quoting the earlier NCM survey!

Other surveys found different results- in 2004 the national audit office found that 68% of young people said Connexions helped them make a decision about their future. “Improve your Connexions” is an even more positive survey from 2004. It surveyed 18,000 young people and found that ‘93% of young people were fairly or very  satisfied with Connexions’. Currently it is not available on the Department for Education website but Chris Speedy has found a copy which I have saved here. 

 As far as I can tell there hasn’t been any major work recently on the subject of face to face careers advice but the Youth Cohort Study 2009 does touch on IAG. This was a large scale study of 14,000 young people but all they were asked about IAG was whether they had the right amount of advice (72% did) at the right time (71% had). Certainly not a sign of dissatisfaction but it does seem to be a missed opportunity to ask a little more.

I do know that in our last survey in Leeds 99% of young people were satisfied with their personal adviser out of 601 young people taking part. (Connexions Leeds Update 2010).

To be honest, I think it’s difficult to get a decent national picture of consumer satisfaction with Connexions but Nick Gibb’s position is utter nonsense.

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