From education to employment

Transition to Ambition: Navigating the careers maze

author of the report, Megan Hector
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The Skills Commission calls for ambitious longer-term strategy from government to ensure that the careers system can support people into work as we face the economic consequences of the pandemic.

Policy Connect’s cross-party Skills Commission is pleased to present its latest report, Transition to Ambition: Navigating the careers maze. Co-chaired by Nicola Richards MP (Con), Lord Jim Knight (Lab) and Dr Siobhan Neary (University of Derby), the report examines the careers information, advice and guidance system in England, and how it supports transitions into employment.

Following the economic and labour market instability caused by the pandemic, alongside the effects of Brexit and the fourth industrial revolution, it is crucial that England’s careers information, advice and guidance (CIAG) system works efficiently so that as many people as possible can be properly supported with their transitions into employment.

The CIAG delivered to young people and adults inside and outside education is crucial to tackle England’s persistent skills gaps and workforce shortages.

This new report sets out a plan for how England’s careers information, advice and guidance (CIAG) system needs to be improved as we come out of the pandemic and tackle economic and labour market instabilities.

CIAG is a fundamental part of the skills, education and employment systems in England and it needs to work effectively if we are to address England’s persistent skills gaps and workforce shortages, and get the economy to bounce back. 

The pandemic offered an opportunity to stand back and consider England’s approach to CIAG, and how well it supports young people and adults to successfully transition into long-term employment.

This includes examining how the system responded during the pandemic, and what lessons we can learn from this about how the system could be made to work as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Careers information, advice and guidance (CIAG) and how it can support transitions into sustainable employment has always been a complex and challenging endeavour, affecting young people and adults at all stages in their education and employment.

Looking to the future, we heard a strong consensus that the CIAG system in England needs to become a truly all-age national service, where all the constituent parts work together coherently and without gaps or unhelpful overlap. We have made nine recommendations which we believe will help to achieve this goal.

Setting the framework for a stable, longer-term careers strategy

The government must create stability in the careers system by setting out a long-term careers strategy. This should include 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.

Adequate longer-term funding for the CIAG system should also be made available in the Spending Review 2021, building on the commitment in the Plan for Jobs for increased investment in the National Careers Service.

Tackling digital poverty

The government must renew its commitment to tackling digital poverty with a more comprehensive set of actions. This should include working 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. This could be paid for by a percentage of telecommunications companies’ profits.

Sector Reaction

Nicola Richards MP, inquiry co-chair, said:

“For too long our system has been far too invested in promoting university as the sole route to success. To help young people navigate the labour market challenges ahead, they need to be fully informed of the breadth of education and training pathways open to them, and the ones that will give them the best prospects for building their careers.”

Lord Jim Knight of Weymouth, inquiry co-chair, said:

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“Careers guidance has been neglected by successive governments and as a former Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform, and for Schools, I saw first-hand the consequences of not getting this right.

As the dynamics of the current employment market shift – rising unemployment, self-employment, automation and the 100 year life – we need now, more than ever, to seriously address the crisis in our adult skills system. This needs to work as a through life system and must be married with a high quality guidance system plugged into labour market insight and intelligence.”

This inquiry has seen clearly the value that careers information, advice and guidance can provide for young people and adults. We heard about careers professionals in further and higher education adapting to the pandemic with virtual careers fairs, online work experience, and tailored advice on video interviews. For some people, such as disabled people or parents, online delivery of CIAG has allowed a new level of access to and engagement with the support available.

However, we also heard about the challenge for further education providers of delivering good quality CIAG with vastly insufficient funding. We heard about the significant number of young people and adults experiencing digital poverty: lacking access to the broadband, appropriate computer equipment, or other technology they need to participate in learning or CIAG online. We also heard about careers advisers who deliver the National Careers Service locally being furloughed in the hundreds during the pandemic, because of the difficulty of accessing customers.

Key Recommendations

A key recommendation of the report is for the government to set the framework for a stable, longer-term careers strategy and truly all-age national careers service that works for everyone.  A first step should be the creation of an employer-led careers strategy advisory board.  Other recommendations include what will be needed in and alongside the Spending Review 2021.

The lead recommendations of the report are:

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.

Methodology: The research leading to this report was conducted by Policy Connect on behalf of the Skills Commission, and its author Megan Hector is a member of Policy Connect’s Education and Skills Team. The inquiry was sponsored by Jisc, the Edge Foundation, ECITB, the University of Derby, and the University of Sussex.

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