From education to employment

Careers support for young people: consultation, confidence and genuine commitment

Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, UK, EU and International careers policy, research and practice specialist

The government in England has launched a consultation on the statutory guidance for schools on ‘access for education and training providers’.
Through the Skills and Post-16 Education Act 2022, schools are required to provide a minimum number of six encounters with providers of approved technical education qualifications or apprenticeships for pupils, during school years 8 to 13. For the first time, parameters are introduced around the duration and content of these encounters in an attempt to ensure they are of high quality.

These new requirements will strengthen the original provider access legislation, introduced in 2018, that requires all maintained schools and academies to publish a policy statement setting out opportunities for providers of technical education and apprenticeships to access year 8-13 pupils, and to make sure the statement is followed (Section 42B of the Education Act 1997). The consultation focuses on the statutory guidance that schools must have regard to when carrying out their legal duty. The proposed revisions explain the changes to the law and set out what schools in England must do to comply when the new law commences on 1 January 2023. The consultation also sets out proposals for a clearer process for improving compliance with the legislation, including through a ladder of support and intervention. Government is asking for views on whether there is a role for greater independent quality assurance, including through more peer and expert review. The closing date for responses is 25 July 2022.

So let’s each consider how confident we feel about the state of our nation’s careers support for young people (and adults). Since 2012, government has made several attempts to convince schools and colleges that it is their responsibility to do more in delivering career education and impartial career guidance with less resource. There is emphasis on Gatsby benchmarks using a self-assessment model. More recently, Gatsby has shifted its focus to adult guidance. The approach in England is in stark contrast to that of the three other UK home nations whereby they have adopted a consistent genuine partnership approach with trained and qualified careers specialists (guaranteed by government) in every school and college. In Scotland’s latest Careers Review Minister Jamie Hepburn states: “The all-age advice and guidance will be particularly important as we develop an enhanced lifelong skills offer that supports those who most need it.” He will set out his vision at a forthcoming virtual International Conference in early July 2022. In Wales, there’s a recognition that young people’s wellbeing and resilience must be at the forefront of careers policies. Building Brighter Futures is a public policy priority with a 5 year vision. In Northern Ireland despite recent political turmoil, the Department for the Economy has recognised the importance of transforming careers support for young people and adults.

Ten years on, investment in supporting young people’s career choices and decisions in England cannot simply be left to chance. We all know schools and colleges are facing significant fiscal and recruitment pressures that are likely to result in cost cutting activities in the coming year. A genuine commitment to supporting young people, parents and businesses who desperately need a skilled workforce requires bold ideas and brave decisions. Government has an opportunity to ‘reset the dial’ in 2022. We need more action on the ground, confidence in the careers strategy moving forward and a genuine commitment for transformation rather than endless consultations.

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