meDigital editor Richard Hook says there's nothing more short-sighted than cutting student access to advice on their futures

Over 20% youth unemployment, university fees the highest in history, EMA (education maintenance allowance) a long distant memory and ever-more harshly marked exams - it's a tough time to be graduating from school. 

With expectations understandbly low, a robust & resourceful careers service would be one of the first things I'd look to put in place if I was in charge of local education boards.

That's why this week's news that careers advice has been reduced in more than eight out of 10 schools in England in the past year came as such a surprise [http://jfhc.co.uk/majority-schools-cut-down-careers-advice.aspx].

However, with budget cuts everywhere this is the decision that's been taken by many heads but it's also one that many saw coming.

Back in September of last year, the government chose to hand control for providing professional careers guidance back to schools. When told of the change, the 20 members of the National Careers Service Advisory Group considered resigning en masse.

Paul Chubb, director of Careers England, added at the time: "Schools buying in careers services has not worked in the two countries that have tried it - the Netherlands and New Zealand - and they had access to funding which heads here won't have."

These new findings tend to suggest it isn't working here either, with even the DfE itself admitting provision has become "poor quality or patchy".

At the moment anyone who leaves school at 16 will have no opportunity for a face-to-face conversation about their career or training needs until the age of 19 - is that really the best way to encourage youngsters when the outlook is currently so bleak?

Students need to know that options are out there for them, as for all the bad statistics listed at the top, there are bright clouds on the horizon: the number of NEETs (not in education, employment or training) was down for the third straight month in October; the London Olympics created a clear legacy for sporting pathways; and the number of new businesses set-up in 2012 was at its highest rate for four decades.

In order to ensure an ever more well-educated generation of young people make the most of these opportunities, they need help to guide them, because, as the saying goes "intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings".