Careers Adviser: the supply and demand paradox

The statutory requirement is clear, student’s careers guidance must be impartial and delivered by qualified practitioners. By qualified we know that this is someone who is Level 6 and above. Having a member of staff who’s job is dedicated to the delivery of Personal Guidance is an essential component to any successful Careers programme. Why is it that schools struggle to get this in place?

As we know supply and demand is an economic model of price determination in a market. The theory is that in a competitive market, the price of goods or a traded item like labour, will vary until it reaches a point where the quantity demanded will equal the quantity supplied. This results in an economic equilibrium for price and quantity transacted, which in turn forms the theoretical basis of modern economics. This is what makes the Careers Adviser position so paradoxical as it appears that it does not fit in with this fundamental theory of economics.

When a school is in need of a teacher of Maths, all the stops are pulled out. Leadership points are offered, TLRs are thrown around and some schools suggest that taking the position can be a fast track to Senior Leadership. The reason why schools take this approach is because Maths teachers are hard to find, good or outstanding ones are even harder. This is the very definition of supply and demand: Maths teachers are in short supply and demand is high, the price is equitably high.

Careers Advisers are not offered such riches, or shown such love. It could be argued that the position does not have the same significance in the mechanisms of a school as a Maths teacher, but the theory should still be sound. There are few appropriately qualified people to deliver to Personal Guidance, and demand is high. This should mean that schools should be paying a premium to fill these positions. The evidence starkly shows that not only are Careers Advisers not being paid a premium but they are in fact being offered very little in the way of salary or station.

A quick look at current positions advertised across different sources paints the same picture.

  • Careers Adviser jobs in schools and colleges are mostly part-time
  • The annual salary is often less than or on par with an NQT position – without the possible onward career progression
  • The pro-rata rate is low
  • Colleges pay more than schools
  • Universities pay more than colleges and schools

It’s hard to find other professions that require you to have Degree or Masters level knowledge and training to pay so little. Considering the nature of the job, it’s easy to understand that Careers Advisers find it hard to sell the job to other people. If you consider the incentivised Careers leadership training offered by the Careers and Enterprise Company has increased number of Level 6+ professionals, why has demand remained high but salaries remained woefully low?

Another difficult question to be ask is, why, when considering the statutory obligations, do so many schools not offer the role as a full time position?

Jan Ellis, Chief Executive of the CDI, speaking at a Westminster Education Forum event on tackling youth unemployment, stated “if you want to give world-class careers guidance to young people in schools, then it needs to be invested in”. She correctly pointed out that a great deal of the Careers guidance being delivered nationally was through teachers who had myriad other responsibilities alongside Careers.

The most effective Careers Advisers are the ones who weave into the fabric of a school. They don’t just know the school culture, they are in a position to shape it. Students are more trusting of school staff who they see everyday and who they know are ‘in it’ for the long haul, this is especially true for those who attend schools in disadvantaged areas. Making a Careers Advisers position full-time supports this process and creates the space for long lasting positive impact from Personal Guidance interactions.

We firmly believe that there is no better or more vital time for the salary of Careers Advisers to be commensurate with it’s importance. It should be stated loud and clear that Careers Leadership funding from the CEC has made a resounding difference to young people in schools up and down the country. This of course should be celebrated and they congratulated more widely for this and with the loudest of megaphones.

However, now isn’t the time to pull back and additional funding is needed to ensure that all schools are able to pay a fair salary for the supply of our in demand careers professionals.

3 thoughts on “Careers Adviser: the supply and demand paradox

  1. Excellent! I can never understand why Career Guidance isn’t given a higher profile! It has to be one of the most important roles for pupils! Only with world class guidance can students reach their Potential in the work place! Employees are not going to retire till they reach 67 or 68 so they need to be happy, stimulated and fulfilled!

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