Clare Hutchinson, Director of Network, The Careers & Enterprise Company

Blackpool’s upward journey and positive trajectory, set out in their recently published 10 year education plan, is a story now shared in many areas of disadvantage across the country.

Focused investment and close collaboration between schools, business and local agencies is leading to sustained improvement in opportunity and the prospects for many young people, with careers guidance at its heart.

The story of Blackpool identifies a compelling formula for embedding solutions in areas where there are persistent and pervasive challenges for young people’s education and transition into adult life. The game changers are the additional investment and targeted interventions around stronger careers guidance and the development of school-based specialist provision for the most vulnerable.

As Blackpool’s ten-year plan highlights, their careers journey, harnessed through the Careers Hub, now comprises a comprehensive and coherent programme of interventions with young people. Employer encounters are at the core and recognised as a crucial component in developing the skills and knowledge young people need to succeed.

This systematic approach is generating real impact. More schools are meeting key Gatsby Benchmarks, which determine international best practice for career education standards. Improved online resources are providing better information for young people on their career and employment options. As a result, they anticipate further reductions in NEET levels.

The Blackpool Careers Journey has strong links with regional and national employers, boosting encounters and work placement offers. For instance, Blackpool Aspire Academy have been supported by employers like Sandcastle Water Park and BAE Systems to run workplace experience activities with Year 9 pupils. This has been key to boosting student’s confidence and understanding about the skills employers are looking for and the range of employment opportunities available.

The model in Blackpool is replicated in Opportunity Areas (OA) across the country.

The 12 opportunity areas are:

  • Blackpool
  • Bradford
  • Derby
  • Doncaster
  • Fenland and East Cambridgeshire
  • Hastings
  • Ipswich
  • North Yorkshire Coast
  • Norwich
  • Oldham
  • Stoke-on-Trent
  • West Somerset

The core principles underpinning the approach are targeted support, galvanised by four key components;

  1. Leadership;
  2. Partnerships,
  3. Including the vital mobilisation of local employers;
  4. Increasing capacity within local schools by training and supporting Careers Leaders and investment in careers activities that target support for young people and their individual needs.

Critical to all this are Careers Hubs

Critical to all this are Careers Hubs and the convening power they provide to drive collaboration and pinpoint precision to young people’s needs across the programme.

In the Black Country, the Careers Hub has brought local authorities and employers together to deliver support directly to parents and young people, as part of a coordinated NEET prevention plan, focused on local priority sectors like engineering and construction.

In Stoke on Trent, the network has engaged local employers like Ocado, the Army, Eurocarparts and Belways in highlighting opportunities and pathways to apprenticeships. Birmingham employers have produced targeted support for students in transition years. In Ipswich, BT, Ipswich Town FC and Suffolk County Council are offering virtual tours of their workplaces.

The Cornwall Hub has ensured every Year 10 student will have the opportunity to engage in work experience virtually this year. In the North Yorkshire coastal OA, virtual encounters with employers have extended student experiences beyond local businesses, tapping into national resources and providing young people with a wider perspective on pathways, broadening their career choices.

These are a few examples of how Careers Hubs are establishing themselves as anchor institutions in local communities to build bridges between education and employers, and be vital catalyst for improving opportunity for young people in disadvantaged areas. Their value is now redoubled by the commitment in the Skills for Jobs White Paper to roll out Careers Hub excellence everywhere.

It is a model of vital importance as we seek to support our young people to find the right path for their talents, level up opportunity in all our communities and pursue a sustainable route to long-term recovery from the impact of the pandemic.

Clare Hutchinson, Director of Network, The Careers & Enterprise Company

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