Whilst there is universal access to career services across Scotland, not all access is equal
Thousands of young people receive excellent support and advice every year, but evidence shows that for many others this isn’t the case. Through the Career Review, work is underway to ensure our often-fragmented system doesn’t leave anyone behind.
Jack* is one young individual who feels career services haven’t historically met their needs. From age 13 to 17, Jack rarely attended school and even dropped out as they experienced social anxiety and depression and changed schools before dropping out again.
Now 20-years-old and having recently started studying Computer Arts at Abertay University, Jack said: “I was in and out of high school and wasn’t there long enough to be offered career services. I’d never been offered career services until now when I got to university. They have a career service which I’ve signed up to and hope to use to get help finding part-time work.”
Research by Young Scot and SQW shows that Jack isn’t alone. There is a high - and often unmet - demand for career support amongst young people in Scotland. Although career support is universally available across Scotland, this research suggests that there are some inequities in access and take up of career services, with disadvantaged young people and those who are not pursuing an academic pathway often finding it more difficult to access services.
For Jack, their time at school was challenging as they dropped in and out often. “The option to talk to someone in career services rather than going to school was never brought up, the focus was always on keeping me in school rather than giving me other options”, said Jack.
With Jack not receiving advice on possibilities for their future career within school and no knowledge of any post-school or community-based services, they turned elsewhere for advice and relied on family for support. Jack said: “My sister was the one who told be about Abertay University and their video games courses. Before that I hadn’t ever heard of them.”
“I spoke a lot about my course choice to my family but the large majority of the research behind my university choice and course came from me, as I wanted to make sure I was applying to places that would give me a fair chance despite my lack of Nat5s and Highers.”
The option to talk to someone in career services rather than going to school was never brought up, the focus was always on keeping me in school rather than giving me other options.
Jack has now chosen to pursue higher education, but they believe parents and carers need to be more informed about career choices and resources should be available to help them understand and explain to their children that further education isn’t the only option.
“I think parents need to have more information on careers to be able to help their young people more with finding employment rather than the education pipeline. There are more ways to get into the workforce.”
And although Jack is excited about their course, they’re unsure what their future career will look like. Jack said: “At the moment I’m focused on building up my skills and focusing on university, but my aim is to get a job eventually in this field.”
I think when you’re young, you’re often shoehorned into choosing a path with your elective subjects. When it comes to career advice and services it’d be nice to test out different jobs and try a couple weeks placement at different places so you can get a real feel for what that work is like.
Experiences of the world of work
For Jack, having access to more integrated opportunities at school to experience work would have provided some useful insight into what career they might enjoy. They said: “I think when you’re young, you’re often shoehorned into choosing a path with your elective subjects.”
“When it comes to career advice and services it’d be nice to test out different jobs and try a couple weeks placement at different places so you can get a real feel for what that work is like. You might think you really like the idea of one place but after working there it might not be the environment you want to be working in.”
And as Jack is non-binary, they also noted that hearing from people from diverse backgrounds about their experiences of the workplace would have helped ease some of their concerns on how they will fit into the workplace.
Jack said: “It’d help to hear from people who work in different industries to get their perspective on the workplace, it’s all good hearing about it from the employer’s or bosses’ side who will make it seem great but hearing from people who actually work in the jobs you could do would be great.
"When looking for jobs, I always look for company policies on protected characteristics, so it’d be helpful to learn more and hear more in education from people with those same characteristics. If they’ve had bad experiences at a company based on these characteristics, then it gives you an insight.”
Despite earlier challenges, Jack is now at a place where they are excited about their course. They said: “Ultimately, I’ve ended up where I want to be but if I’d had more support, maybe I’d have ended up here earlier.”
Looking for career support?
People of all ages can access career support at any time through My World of Work. You can also speak to a Careers Adviser by calling 0800 917 8000. The helpline is open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. *Jack's surname has been withheld to protect their identity.