Careers Advice and Support

Careers Support – Are we doing enough to Support our Young People?

The Careers and Enterprise Company produced yet another interesting report earlier this month. 50 pages of research into progress made which as you would expect from the author paints a picture of positivity and progress. Whilst commendable in itself, and listening intently to what is happening in the jobs and careers market place, I am not sure the conclusions really Gel with reality. 

The report is wholly a summary of progress from surveys with Schools – progress made with Compass, the heavily invested evaluation tool against the 8 Gatsby Benchmarks. The opening sentence of the executive summary states ‘careers education for young people in England has gone through seismic change in the last five years’. I am not sure I recognise that conclusion, nor do many operating in supporting young people determine the optimal options for them at a time of unprecedented disruption, uncertainty and providers chasing for candidates. 

Whilst it is difficult to argue against the formation and work of the Local Enterprise Partnerships and Careers Hubs regarding Careers Advice, delivery is best patchy and measurement against Gatsby is more of a ‘tick list’ of compliance and peer review than effective progress in supporting young people make better informed career choices. 

In reading the report, it was surprising that with the much lauded COMPASS platform, the level of recorded data was so small with an acknowledgment that many had not updated the platform at the end of July 2020. Conclusions of positive progress from such a small sample of participation does enable someone to question the validity – it’s a little like some of the data thrown at us during the past 9 months of COVID-19.

Commendably, there are examples of progress by Careers Hubs and within individual Schools and Multi Academy Trusts in working with pupils, employers and other stakeholders. However, this is still spasmodic with the majority of executive leaders I talk to in Schools not even considering this at Board or Trust level. 

We know the pressures on School and Trust Leaders, particularly at the present time but the level of support and choice for our young people in the past five years has not been grown substantially evidenced by little or no significant increase in investment made by Schools, Trusts or Colleges.

If we are to make a difference to support our young people – and they deserve all the help they can get, I would advocate the following changes to careers support:

  1. Schools, Trusts and Colleges should publish on their web sites their strategies and policies for careers support and Governors or equivalent should consider setting objectives, evaluating performance and determining investment at least annually and consider alternative ways in which they can commission careers advice and support
  2. Parents should become a core part of the tripartite relationship for careers advice in Schools. The Institution. The Pupil and the Parent/Carer are integral to providing a comprehensive support programme – parents are often excluded deliberately from careers support mechanisms whereas they can effectively provide support if included in the process of guidance. 
  3. Creating a Vibrant Marketplace – whilst protecting the need to provide careers support for everyone, as in any established market place, we should encourage the promotion of a commercial market for careers advice and support – parents pay for additional tuition to support examination result improvement so why not give parents the ability to pay for targeted careers advice and one to one support – especially as we are about to enter a period of austerity post COVID-19.
  4. Comprehensive data management – if you don’t collect sufficient data, you cannot measure the effectiveness of investment. We must mandate, probably through OFSTED inspection processes for Schools, Trusts and Colleges to collect comprehensive data on careers. Whilst there may be many learners registered with the small number of careers portals operating across the UK, the level of active participation is patchy at best. We must require better collection of management information.

Whilst much needs to be done to improve the consistency and core level of careers advice across the country, the picture isn’t much better in many of our international comparators. 

Careers is unfortunately too much of an afterthought rather than ONE of the core reasons we actually educate our young people. With some much investment being put into primary and secondary education – we deserve to get better returns and most importantly our young people deserve better value for money.

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