Economic and Social Benefits of Career Guidance


Career guidance is not only a private good, it is a public good too (Watts, 1998). Bimrose (2006) also states that in a complex labour market, the need for high quality career guidance has never been greater: “Put simply, in the absence of adequate advice and guidance, increased complexity leads to a concomitant increase in the likelihood of a substantial proportion of individuals reaching sub-optimal decisions, which in turn lead to a significant level of sub-optimal outcomes” (Keep & Brown, 2005, p.16, cited in Bimrose, 2006, p4).


Governments appear to accept the socio-economic importance of career guidance by offering it as a free service, ‘guidance has become part of wider policy packages designed, on the one hand, to promote economic sufficiency, effectiveness and competitiveness, and, on the other hand combat exclusion (primarily from the workforce and secondarily from mainstream society in general)’ (Irving & Malik, 2005, p29). The OECD (OECD 2002a:1) also accepts the advantages of career education and guidance but is the free for all system actually working for the public, is there enough resources in place and is the agenda in line with the interests of the client. In Ireland there is ‘only one counsellor for every 500 students’ at secondary level (Irish Independent, 25.10.2006) which results in high dropout levels at third level, in fact ‘one-in-six students leave all third-level courses before second year (Irish Examiner, 04.06.2010). According to employers ‘second-level students need more and better career guidance to help them make the right choice of college course and job’ (Irish Independent, 25.10.2006).


Within a recession, when taxes are increased (as was the outcome in Ireland) in order to meet the need for governance, personal disposable income is reduced and what remains to spend is thus given greater importance, thought and value. Mayson (2002) states that ‘significant changes in career direction may involve a large element of sunken cost that cannot easily be recovered if wrong career choices are made’. Making an investment in career has strong personal commercial significance and thus the right career move is not only of importance to personal well-being and fulfilment but of commercial and economic relevance. Households are being ‘forced to become more self-conscious and reflective in the way they organise their resources (Wallace, 2000, cited in Gardiner et al., 2009). The need for assistance in making career decisions has inadvertently within a recession become even more important. Career decisions also contain greater personal significance from a personal monetary value both in the short and long term and the need for effective labour market information. ‘Career guidance can assist the efficient operation of the labour market in three main ways: by supporting the individuals decisions through which the labour market operates; by reducing some of its market failures; and by contributing to institutional reforms designed to improve the functioning of the labour market’ (Watts, 1999). Mayson (2002) also weights behind Watts when he states that ‘career guidance can play a valuable economic role in providing individuals with better information than they already have on the career opportunities available to them and their suitability to successfully pursue them in conjunction with possible further education and training, given their existing skills and abilities. In doing so, it can help to add value of the individual’s human capital beyond what it would have been in the absence of career guidance’.


‘Extract from MA Dissertation, for details of references, please contact me directly:’


Diarmuid Haughian

MA Career Guidance, QCG