From education to employment

Increased funding is needed for a truly all-age national careers service that works for everyone

Dr Siobhan Neary (Head of the International Centre for Guidance Studies at the University of Derby) and Nicola Richards MP (Conservative MP for West Bromwich East)

Hundreds of thousands of young people around the country have recently received the results for their A levels, BTECs, and other vocational and technical qualifications.

Many of them will be looking forward to moving on to further study, or starting a new job: but how do we best equip young people and adults with the information and skills they need in order to succeed?

Careers information, advice and guidance (CIAG) is a fundamentally important component of our education, skills and employment systems in England.

If young people and adults don’t know what jobs are available in their local area, or how their skills and qualifications might transfer to a new role or industry, it’s more difficult for them to move into sustainable and fulfilling work.

This is becoming ever more important as the UK gears up for the 26th meeting of the UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow this November: it’s vital that our workforce has the appropriate skills to support the shift to a net zero economy.

Careers professionals can facilitate this green upskilling with their big picture perspective on regional and national labour markets, and their connections to local businesses.

Alongside Lord Jim Knight, former Minister for Schools, we recently chaired an inquiry for Policy Connect’s Skills Commission which explored how the careers system works in England, particularly in terms of supporting people into employment in these difficult economic circumstances.

The report for the inquiry was launched in July, titled ‘Transition to Ambition: Navigating the careers maze’.

We spoke to young people in education and training, further and higher education leaders, and businesses and careers professionals around England to gather evidence on their experiences of the careers system.

The amazing good that CIAG can do

We heard a lot about the amazing good that CIAG can do for people, supporting them through momentous changes in education, work and life.

Careers professionals have adapted and innovated during the pandemic, developing new resources and new ways of delivering advice and support, including online careers fairs and virtual work experience. Online provision has enabled more parents to get involved and engaged, a group which traditionally can be quite hard for careers advisers to reach.

Katharine Horler, CEO of Adviza, a charity which provides employability programmes and careers guidance, told us:

“We’ve learnt that we can do webinars and deliver information many times over, including by recording it so that people don’t have to participate live – they can engage at a time that suits them.

“That’s a new flexibility.”

Barriers which prevent the careers system from working

However, we also heard about barriers which prevent the careers system from working as well as it could. Some of these originate outside of the careers system, such as the continuing need for more up-to-date local labour market information: during the rapid and divergent economic changes which have taken place throughout the pandemic, the need for access to labour market information based on current job vacancies has become especially strong.

In addition, contributors to the inquiry told us about the challenge presented by digital poverty during the pandemic. Due to a lack of technology, wifi or mobile data, some people have been excluded from the education or training they need in order to move into employment. Others have been less able to access advice that would help them to make an informed decision about jobs to apply for or training to undertake.

Further barriers are inherent to the careers system itself: years of policy churn and strategy changes, short-term planning and underfunding have made it difficult for careers professionals to fully meet the needs of young people and adults.

Contributors to the inquiry told us that there is insufficient funding for schools and colleges to pay for the CIAG work they are required to provide, let alone to make any of the improvements to CIAG provision needed in order to achieve better outcomes.

An unprecedented time of labour market change

We have made nine recommendations to tackle these issues, and we hope these will ensure that all young people and adults receive the support they need during this unprecedented time of labour market change.

This includes our key recommendation: that government set the framework for a stable, longer-term careers strategy. This long-term strategy should include the creation of an employer-led advisory board that could help ensure the government’s money is more coherently targeted to provide effective support for careers, education and employment.

Employers have great expertise and a vital role to play in setting out the skills and workforce needs of our key industries. Government should make more of employers’ expertise, in coalition with education and training providers and key careers organisations, to support the functioning of the careers system.

Nine Recommendations

  1. Government should set the framework for a stable, longer-term careers strategy. 
    This framework should have the following elements:
    1.  The Department for Education must maintain its 2017-2020 careers strategy for a lifespan of at least five more years.
    2.  The creation of an employer-led careers strategy advisory board, to provide long-term leadership and strategic direction on national careers strategy and government policies regarding careers, skills, education, training and employment.
    3.  Adequate longer-term funding for the CIAG system should be made available in the Spending Review 2021, with a parallel review to ensure best value is achieved.
  2. Careers advice and guidance should be a constituent part of all Plan for Jobs schemes, to ensure that these schemes are as useful as possible for those undertaking them.
  3. Government must work with telecommunications companies to coordinate and enforce the zero rating of educational and careers resources on mobile data, so that the use of these resources does not count towards users’ mobile data allocation.
  4. The Department for Education should ensure that the collection of job vacancy data piloted by LMI for All is implemented permanently as part of the portal, fully funded for the foreseeable future and actively promoted to all stakeholders who could make use of it, including the general public.
  5. Ofsted inspectors must assess and report on schools’ compliance with the Baker Clause as a mandatory part of the inspection process.
  6. Government should create and fund a national scheme to help small businesses to hire a graduate for 6 to 12 months, boosting businesses’ adaptation to and recovery from Covid-19, while boosting graduates’ employability.
  7. Lifelong learning loans must be made truly flexible, so that people can take out a loan to study a qualification at whatever level they need in order to boost their employability, even if they already have an equivalent qualification at that level.
  8. The ESFA must widen the National Careers Service’s priority groups for the rest of 2021/22, temporarily broadening them out to include people furloughed or at risk of redundancy regardless of their age, and those unemployed regardless of how long they have been unemployed.
  9. There must be much better communication of the existence and services of the National Careers Service, to ensure take-up of its services by all those who need careers advice and guidance.

A longer-term national careers strategy should incorporate proper funding

The government itself recognised during the pandemic that parts of the careers system need more resourcing, as the Chancellor pledged an extra £32 million for the National Careers Service last year.

We recommend that a longer-term national careers strategy should incorporate proper funding for the CIAG delivered by education and training providers, as well as the organisations which deliver the National Careers Service’s local offer across the regions of England. Increased funding would mean we can have an education, careers and employment system with the capacity to both encourage and enable people’s ambitions.

As we continue the transition to a new post-pandemic world, we have a vision for England’s careers system to become a truly all-age, national service, where all the constituent parts work together coherently and without gaps or unhelpful overlap.

The effects of the pandemic on the labour market will likely continue to unfold over the next few months and years, but we have the opportunity now to bolster the careers system and strengthen its contribution to a strong economic recovery.

Now is the time to make sure that everyone has access to the advice and support they need for a successful career and life.

Dr Siobhan Neary, Head of the International Centre for Guidance Studies at the University of Derby, and Nicola Richards, Conservative MP for West Bromwich East

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