Dr Deirdre Hughes, Director, dmh associates

In light of the growing negative impact of uncertainty in schooling arrangements and negative impact of the new strain of virus, supporting people’s livelihoods and creating opportunities must be at the forefront of Ministerial decisions in the coming months ahead.

A forensic focus on young people and adults’ access to a fast-changing labour market intelligence will be essential. This is evermore important to individuals, families, communities, employers and wider society.

A recently published flash joint international survey report, supported by the European CareersNet national group of experts, provides a snapshot of how career guidance policies, systems and services were adapting and coping, following the declaration of the worldwide pandemic in March 2020. The findings are based on responses from 93 countries. A total of 40% of respondents reported that career guidance had received policy attention from government during the early pandemic but a comparable percentage stated that no such attention had been given.

Earlier a joint international report Investing in career guidance, published in December 2019 - a landmark precedent in international cooperation - highlighted the importance of career guidance to individuals, families, society, the labour market and the economy at large:

‘Effective career guidance helps individuals to reach their potential, economies to become more efficient and societies to become fairer. It provides people with personalised, impartial, and timely information and support to make informed decisions about their lives. It acts as a lubricant for developing and nurturing human talent to power innovation, creativity, and competitiveness. It helps to implement lifelong approaches to learning and active approaches to labour market engagement and transition.’

The recent survey, launched on 8 June 2020 and closed on 3 August 2020, examined the policy, systems and practice changes that occurred during the first phase of government reactions to the pandemic, the extent to which the pandemic and its social consequences triggered a debate on career guidance reform, and the role for career guidance in pandemic recovery measures. What are the key lessons identified and how does this translate to the situation in England in January 2021?

Some selected key findings:

  • Young people are vulnerable as the digital divide deepens rifts in Europe, where there is a risk of increasing the rural/urban divide and exacerbating differences between education systems (European Committee of the Regions, 2020).
  • It is more important than ever to intensify cooperation between different service providers, stakeholders and employers in rethinking and repositioning guidance in the national Covid-19 recovery strategies. This might include actions to develop career guidance that moves from information delivery to more collaborative approaches, enhanced using technology, integrated in the services, and underpinned by appropriate/effective strategies for career management skills development.
  • Referrals to and additional need for psychosocial support during the recovery for people with more complex needs should also be considered in planning guidance provisions, such as work with multi-professional teams and related services.
  • Labour market information needs to be quickly updated to reflect a shifting labour market. it is more important than ever that young people have multiple opportunities to speak with people who work in areas of career interest.
  • Growing numbers of workers can expect to need to train and retrain to be redeployed in other functions or move jobs.

In England, there lies a great opportunity ahead to take stock of the current arrangements for careers support for young people and adults. Some simple practical ideas include:

  • A Careers Guidance Guarantee – to ensure that everyone, including young people and adults, those in education, work and who are currently unemployed or not in education, employment or training (NEET), will be able to access the professional career guidance that they need.
  • A commitment to all school leavers for a guaranteed careers dialogue with a qualified and trained careers professional – similar to the government-backed arrangement in Northern Ireland. This offers ‘a safety net’ outside of the family and someone to talk to regarding options and opportunities.
  • Focus on local places and spaces (online) where individuals know they can easily seek help and support.
  • A national advertising campaign with professional careers advisory support, similar to the government-backed Pensionwise Service, to motivate, support and encourage individuals to access careers, enterprise and employment opportunities, know their best interests will be served and be resilient in the post-Covid landscape.

A final note: The Celtic nations have an all-age national careers service – a partnership model between career development professionals, schools, colleges, training providers, local authorities, DWP and more!

Dr Deirdre Hughes, Director, dmh associates

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