Difficulties getting labour market information on consequences of subject choice
Another contribution I made in a debate about role of labour market information (LMI) at a Symposium on Lifelong Learning held in Glasgow in June 2010:
Yes I wanted to say something we’ve picked up on the information, advice and guidance front. An issue I think is important following on from that point about information, is actually just to look at where people go in terms of the careers after following certain paths and the information associated with that. I think it ties back to the point about languages and also to a certain extent the challenges associated with maths. I mean one of the disadvantages of the modular and credit systems is to a certain extent you can do things which duck away from certain areas which are actually quite demanding, like languages and subjects which have a mathematical underpinning. They have really serious labour market consequences and the premiums if you do these sorts of things well are astonishing. Now you come into a different area because when you give people this type of information: you come up with things like if you get a Degree in a non numerate subject which is a 2:2 or below, you know in the following 5 years after graduation your prospects are greater than somebody who got a first or a 2:1 in a non numerate subject. Absolutely stunning in terms of the difference. Now there might be other reasons why you want to do different sort of things, but there is opposition to that type of information being given at the school level. In an English context you have the case where, again, it is better to take difficult subjects like languages and maths and do less well, but you try telling that to head teachers in England, you know they go crazy. I thought I was going to be beaten up once when I said that, because they concerned with school performance tables. But they’re the sorts of things where the information comes and then the point about the guidance, you’re absolutely right, the guidance comes later. I think you are also right to focus on the client, addressing people not about where they fit in terms of a qualification or where they fit in terms of giving them a course, but where they fit as an individual. It is interesting in that sense that the French system, bilan de competence, gave them a right to a number of days where they reassessed their career as an individual with a guidance practitioner. So I do think that’s right, but I do think there are also things we can do on the information side and to address this confidence issue.