Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, Director, DMH Associates & Associate Fellow, University of Warwick IER

Careers Strategy 2020 due to be published very soon  

In each of the four home nations, four UK Ministers reflect on the impact of COVID on people’s lives and how the education and training landscape is evolving.

Clearly, the UK economy needs a diverse talent pipeline ready to support business, drive up productivity and open up opportunities for all now and in the future.

Also, individuals’ health and wellbeing outcomes are now of paramount concern.

The ambitions set out by each of the Ministers make explicit the urgent need for impartial and high-quality careers guidance. Note the subtle language shift – not just careers information, advice or simply volunteers from business going into schools – though these of course remain important.

Gillian Keegan, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills at the DfE

Minister Keegan (England) indicates:Careers guidance is vital in helping to develop talent and opportunities for all…We are investing over £100m in financial year 2020/2021 to help young people and adults get high quality careers advice.”

Jamie Hepburn, The Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills for the Scottish Government

Minister Hepburn (Scotland) states: “In our own Programme for Government we committed to delivering a new careers strategy…The value and requirement of good quality careers information, advice guidance services has always been important for us, but never more so than today.”

Lady Diane Dodds, Minister for the Economy, Northern Ireland and Member of the European Parliament

Minister Dodds (N. Ireland) reports:In Northern Ireland I’ve made sure careers guidance is available to everyone regardless of their age or employment status…The availability of impartial and reliable careers support provided by professionally qualified advisers is more important than ever.”

Ken Skates, Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales

Minister Skates (Wales) says: “We are fortunate to have an all-age national careers service delivered by Careers Wales…continuously developing their digital offer e.g. CareerCraft based on Minecraft and as we move into the new academic year…our Careers Advisers are working hard to offer advice digitally as well as face-to-face.”

In England, we have a forthcoming new DfE Careers Strategy due to be published in the coming weeks - though formal consultation on the actual content has so far been very limited – this suggests that a business as usual approach is most likely.

The evidence base on significant improvements in careers support over the last 5 years, particularly for young people, remains weak. A new FE White Paper is on its way with some speculation that careers support for students and local communities may feature. This offers some promise for capacity building within and across the workforce. Of course, the devil will be in the detail.

This week DfE announced a formal Call for Evidence on Post- 16 Study at level 2 and below which suggests that at long last there is government recognition of the weakening of this type of much needed essential provision over recent years. Without this provision available locally, people are denied an essential foothold into learning and work opportunities. Not everyone can start immediately on T levels! And for many individuals to get to T level entry progression routes are a must.

So, what can we learn from other countries?

Let’s begin by listening and reflecting on the Ministerial priorities in each of the four home nations. In England, the “wicked question” that needs urgent attention is where do people go to for impartial careers support in their local communities?

The challenges is how can the various education, careers and employability strategies come together with an integrated and coherent approach?

I believe it is time to serve young people and adults’ needs in VUCA times with more visible careers support services in both national arrangements and in local communities.

Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, Director, DMH Associates & Associate Fellow, University of Warwick IER

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