Testing times: careers market policies and practices in England and the Netherlands

Abstract

Careers work is a very political business. Since the early 1990s, successive governments in England and the Netherlands have persistently challenged those working in the careers sector to demonstrate the educational, social and economic value and impact of their work. In this context, the marketisation of career guidance policies and practices has expanded, with a growing assumption that market-based goods and services ensure greater responsiveness to consumer choice and offer better and/or more innovative services for lower prices. In this article, we do not intend to give a comparison of trends in England and the Netherlands. We only examine the impact of market principles applied to career guidance provision in both countries. Findings indicate such provision for young people is on a steady decline. Lessons learned from these two nations indicate that a market for quality career services does not exist in schools and colleges. As a result, marketisation and privatisation of career services have led to an impoverished and fragmented supply of services. Greater attention by governments in career guidance policies for young people (and adults) is necessary to reduce the widening gap between ‘the haves and have nots’ in society. Failure to reduce labour market mismatch through new forms of careers dialogue is not only damaging and costly for individuals, families and employers, but for the taxpayer too

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