New Report: Insufficient careers advice puts £90BN GDP at Risk

Against a backdrop of declining GCSE results, a new report shows that parents have significant concerns about the quality of careers advice on offer to secondary school pupils.

With 74% of those surveyed feeling careers advice is too focused on academic pathways, and 68% of parents feeling that children don’t receive enough advice, the report, commissioned by FTSE 250 construction and services giant Kier, points to a need for business and government to do more to improve out of date advice.

Specifically, for the construction/built environment sector, this is about averting a £90bn UK GDP crisis. The industry is battling with a fundamental image problem with pupils and parents not appreciating the breadth of career opportunities on offer in the sector, against a backdrop of needing to take on 400,000 new recruits per annum to keep pace with the UK’s growing housing and infrastructure demand.

As part of the report, a study of 2,000 secondary school teachers, parents and careers advisors was undertaken to assess perceptions of careers advice and career options for school leavers, and specifically to gauge their understanding of construction/the built environment.

The study found that 90% of teachers are unaware of the scale of the recruitment shortfall in the construction sector, with 41% not realising that there is an issue at all.

It also found that 54% of teachers and parents still believe that there is a lack of career progression in the built environment, and they still associate the industry with being ‘muddy’, ‘manual’, ‘male dominated’ and ‘lower paid’ thanks to outdated perceptions and advice.

This is despite the fact that the industry provides a wealth of opportunity across all skillsets; at Kier alone, there are 2,000 different job roles across local, regional and national projects, and many different career entry and progression points from work experience, internships and apprenticeships to undergraduate and graduate programmes. As the new Kier careers advice website ( shows, there are a wide range of opportunities on offer in the industry, being tackled by a diverse workforce.

In part, lack of knowledge is being compounded by a lack of detailed careers advice. The report found that three quarters of pupils (65%) aged 11-13 year olds get no official advice and only a quarter of 13-15 year olds (27%) receive ‘one hour, once’ of careers advice. This only improves for 15-16 year olds when 95% then receive one hour of advice or more.

The report also found that 57% of parents say rising tuition fees put them off encouraging university as an option for their children, yet 81% of parents were unaware that FTSE-listed companies like Kier can pay for the cost of a degree course and offer a guaranteed entry point into work upon completion of studies.

Given that the public sector faces continued budgetary pressures, schools and councils cannot provide timely, comprehensive and persuasive careers advice without support. With the backing of the Institute of Directors (IoD) and the Careers & Enterprise Company, Kier is pledging 1% of its workforce as career ambassadors to work with schools and colleges over the next 12 months to engage with at least 10,000 school pupils and inform and inspire the next generation.

In balance, Kier would welcome the Government, using its upcoming Careers Strategy (due to be published shortly), to take further steps to improve careers advice, and to increase opportunities for collaboration between the public and private sector, following on from the success of the Careers & Enterprise Company, which brokers this kind of collaboration. Specific policy asks include:

• Support the role of the Careers & Enterprise Company to ensure young people have access to four or more encounters with the workplace in all schools and colleges across England;

• Mandate that every school gives children a minimum of three, one hour careers advice sessions – the first session with a school advisor, and follow up sessions with ambassadors from relevant industries;

• Ensure that the frameworks and resources are in place to support schools and colleges to meet all of the eight benchmarks identified by the Gatsby Foundation for best practice in careers advice; and

• Mandate that the careers advice process begins as early as possible in a young person’s life to enable them to make informed choices about their subject/course selection.

Haydn Mursell, chief executive, Kier, said: “With an ageing workforce, uncertainty around Brexit and an ambitious pipeline of construction, housing and wider infrastructure projects, which equates to £90bn of UK GDP delivery and creates a demand for circa 400,000 new recruits per annum, it is imperative that we attract new talent into our industry.

“We have invested in comprehensive resource to train and develop new talent, we offer a vast array of roles, great scope and support for diversity and career progression, and we offer the chance to leave a lasting legacy and make a real contribution to local communities, as well as UK GDP. But we also have an image crisis, based on out of date perceptions and advice. We cannot leave this to schools, councils or the government alone to resolve. Business is best placed to explain itself, its employment offering and its skills and training needs.

“For this reason, we are pledging a minimum of 1% of our workforce as career ambassadors to work with schools and colleges across the UK, to engage with at least 10,000 pupils over the next 12 months.

“If every company in the FTSE 250 and FTSE 100 followed the 1% pledge as part of their commitment to employment and skills, we could create a powerful network of real world advisors, to inform and inspire the next generation.”

Claudia Harris, Chief Executive Officer of the Careers & Enterprise Company, said: ‘The Careers & Enterprise Company are delighted to support Kier in their goal to engage with at least 10,000 young people over the next 12 months. Research from Education and Employers shows that young people who have 4 or more workplace encounters while at school are 86% less likely to be ‘Not in Education Employment or Training’ (NEET) and on average will go on to earn 18% more than their peers who did not. We will support Kier and its employees to engage with our national network of over 1,700 schools and colleges to deliver a variety of activities that can support young people and help to bring the many fantastic opportunities in the construction industry to life.’

Seamus Nevin, Head of Employment and Skills Policy at the Institute of Directors, said: “We are in a period of significant change in the labour market and we need to produce more home-grown talent with the right skills. Given the nature of the challenge, this will be a collective effort. To that end, it is great to see the forward looking work of business like Kier, reaching out to young people and making positive contributions to filling the UK’s skills gaps.”

The report ‘Averting a £90bn GDP crisis’ is available from the Kier website: