A job, a vocation or a career?

One of the many issues the Coalition government is struggling with is how to deliver a National all-age Careers Service which is high quality. 

There is concern that all of us require career guidance – particularly at transition points in our lives. Many of us will require access to education and training to both secure a job and sustain employment. This is a much bigger issue than subject choice in schools. It is about raising aspirations and making the best use of human potential. 

As we contemplate longer working lives from choice or necessity, the displacement of blue-collar unskilled jobs, and the need for knowledge workers in every sector of our economy, it is clear that interventions are needed for both young people and adults who lack the means to earn a decent living.

The problem of our age is not that technology will fail to deliver – we already have the technology to feed the world – but that we human beings will not adapt at the pace and scale required.

As a result of the above, the new National Careers Service has a steep hill to climb. It must be credible and business-like if it is to serve the business community, it must be sensitive to the needs of individuals who will resist standardisation and it needs to inspire, enthuse and inform young people about the choices they have in life and their best prospects to succeed.

We need to do the same thing for soldiers returning from Afghanistan, mothers who want to return to work and utilise their skills and experience and the many people who are trapped in work poverty in the UK today.

For too many we are achieving a low skills, low wage equilibrium to use economic jargon.

As the budget draws nearer I would like the Chancellor to think about investing in the many who have the potential to contribute to the UK economy and will address and diminish our long-term issues of “private affluence and public squalor” to quote from JK Galbraith.

The social dividend from continuing to provide access to education and training throughout working lives is considerable. This year, the WEA is looking at evidence to show the return on investment to confirm what we already know – it is essential to any long-term recovery.

I was moved to read the story of Robert Peston in the Evening Standard this week. He has started a charity which brings businesses and women into schools to challenge and inspire young people. We can all get involved and make a difference.

Ruth Profile

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