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4 positive signs that careers education is improving everywhere

John Yarham, Deputy CEO, The Careers & Enterprise Company
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Careers and enterprise provision in England’s schools and colleges

The Careers and Enterprise Company’s annual summary of the careers education taking place in England “The State of the Nation” has just been published.

There are four main themes that emerge:

1. Careers education is improving everywhere

Having the Gatsby Benchmarks as a universal framework to judge performance enables us to track the developments that schools and colleges have made. In two years, national performance against the Gatsby Benchmarks has improved by more than 50% to over 3 Benchmarks now being fully met.

Two million secondary aged children are now engaging with employers regularly in 3,800 participating schools and colleges. That’s two million opportunities for young people to find out about possible jobs and for businesses to identify talent.

Disadvantaged areas had focused support and are amongst the highest performing areas in the country. Performance in areas that were deemed as ‘cold spots’ a few years ago has increased significantly.

Areas such as the Black Country, Tees Valley and the Humber are amongst the best performing in the country. Improved careers performance in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country bucks many other trends in education.

2. The new Careers Hubs and the Enterprise Adviser Network are delivering accelerated progress

The Enterprise Adviser Network has enabled thousands of employers to support schools and colleges with their careers provision and the results show the impact that they are having. Schools and colleges matched with an Enterprise Adviser meet one full Benchmark more than those without (3.1 compared to 2.1).

The first wave of Careers Hubs were launched in September 2018 and feature a network on between twenty to forty schools and colleges working together, supported by ‘Cornerstone’ employers who engage other businesses and a Hub Lead driving the work forward.

The 700 schools and colleges in the first wave of Careers Hubs have achieved an average of 3.9 full Benchmarks, with marked acceleration during the course of the last year. The second wave of Careers Hubs will begin delivering this autumn and will include a further 600 schools and colleges.

3. Young people’s skills and work readiness are improving as a result of the increased interventions being made

Research shows that young people who interact with employers at school have better employment outcomes and higher earnings. They are also more likely to do better at school and have greater confidence in their own abilities.

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Over 70% of young people undertaking CEC funded programmes report increased awareness of different careers and an increased motivation to work hard at school or college. I’m privileged to see this take place for individual young people at the regular school and college visits that I undertake.

I also know that we can do more in the future to explore how this translates into employers reporting increased skills and confidence on entry to their businesses.

4. Schools, colleges and businesses now work together on a national scale, enabled by a new workforce of Careers Leaders

A national system of delivery has emerged. Nearly three-quarters of mainstream schools and colleges now work towards the Gatsby Benchmarks using the CEC’s digital self-assessment tool – Compass.

Careers Leaders are in post in increasing numbers, receiving training and opportunities for peer support. They are supported by over 2,500 business volunteers – Enterprise Advisers – and 170 Cornerstone employers.

We know that challenges still exist

Careers Leaders report variable time allocations and we’d like even more businesses to sign up to provide high quality Enterprise Advisers. We want all schools and colleges to use Compass and develop the strategies for improvement that are relevant for them. But the signs after four years are positive.

A national structure has emerged for businesses, schools and colleges to connect and improve the career prospects of young people. This benefits not just those young people but the schools, colleges and businesses as well.

When young people meet employers, we know that they go on to get better jobs, to earn more and even get better grades. That’s because it opens their eyes to a vast range of opportunities they may not have considered; it makes them feel motivated to work hard and builds their employability skills.

Businesses get to find talented and diverse young people. One construction firm that we work with hires nearly all of its female talent this way because otherwise girls may not think about careers in construction.

As the initial report by the Gatsby Foundation, leading to the creation of the Benchmarks, stated, this is about doing lots of things consistently well. We’re making good progress but there’s still a long way to go. Ultimately, the continuation of this journey will be a win-win for our young people and the economy.

John Yarham, Deputy CEO, The Careers & Enterprise Company

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