Month: August 2014

Revised Careers Guidance for FE and 6th Form Colleges

In the interests of completeness, here is the revised Guidance document “Careers guidance and inspiration – Guidance for general further education colleges and sixth form colleges” that was released yesterday.

For those familiar with the corresponding schools careers guidance the document is much of a muchness with the requirements of the duty for independent guidance on all routes to be provided for students in a number of suitable methods. Case studies highlight different ways of achieving this (including utilising organisations such as Career Academies) and Destination Measures are held up as the  method of accountability. The document then runs through a number of online resources that can help achieve Sixth Forms and Colleges achieve these aims.


The moving employer bullseye for GCSEs

This years GCSE results have brought forth the usual comment and think pieces about the exact value and worth of exam grades on sign posting a young person’s future success. One of the most important voices in this period to shape the debate is always the CBI, the employer body with the ear of Government and seemingly the widest PR reach.

Their GCSE response this year bemoans, among other things, the removal of speaking and listening from the final English grades and how that, “more must be done to ensure a GCSE pass is an accurate measure of not just how well a young person does in the exam hall, but also the skills they can bring to the workplace.” They also request that, “schools should be judged not only on their position in the league tables, but how well-prepared young people are for life beyond the classroom” acknowledging the power that league tables have on school decision-making. Estelle Morris makes a similar point today in the Guardian,

“On the one hand, we bemoan a culture that only values the things that can be measured and we fret about the pressures placed on “the most examined generation of children”. Yet, on the other, when it is our children or our school, exams are hugely influential on the decisions we make.”

Seemingly this is true not just on the decisions education or parents make, but also on the decisions employers make

We all know the stories of the fantastically successful entrepreneur who left school with only a frayed tie and some crumpled detention slips to their name but, it seems, the odds are severely against these outliers.

Which takes me back to the CBI. Their call this year for more rounded school leavers, equipped with those vital employability skills (and a system that recognises schools progress towards achieving this) would find many agreeing murmurs from the Careers sector (even without mentioning their joint desire to see improvement in CEIAG) but it also shows how their view on exams results is evolving over time.

The 2013 CBI response also had an axe to grind (this time against early entries which brought a quick reaction from the DfE) but did try to bridge the gap between the importance of results and the importance of wider skills,

The plan to make GCSEs tougher, although necessary, is not an end in itself

Going back further, the 2012 CBI response acknowledges how changes in the system were then affecting pass rates but places the importance on attainment and standards,

“Improving attainment in our schools is critical to the future success of our economy and society. Raising ambition and aspiration for all should be the focus of our school system. Creating a thirst for learning and delivering a rigorous, meaningful curriculum is a national priority, which needs to be urgently tackled.”

While in 2011, the response the focus is solely placed on numeracy and literacy skills,

“It’s good to see the proportion achieving a C or above in Maths and English continuing to rise. Being able to show you have good ability in reading, writing and maths is more important than ever and opens the door to work or further study.

“However, too many students are still failing to pass Maths GCSE.

“With the highest number of young people for five years not in education, employment or training, we cannot afford for young people to miss out on basic Maths skills.

While there is a slightly Sisyphean nature to these evolving targets for GCSE exams to hit, now that many of the GCSE and league table reforms enacted by the DfE during this parliament are in place with the support of the CBI this call for a wider skills recognition and greater emphasis on preparation for a working life is a theme that will grow as we move towards the 2015 election (witness Tristram’s Hunt character education focus) and one that should benefit CEIAG in schools.


Is CEIAG in schools about to get its own “middle tier”?

A significant shift of Education policy for schools will be in place, ready to go, from September 2014. Eight Regional School Commissioners each supported by their Headteacher Boards will be in place ready to support and challenge under performance of academy schools in their area. Whatever your political views on the rehashing of roles traditionally carried out by locally accountable Local Authorities, this is a significant step-change in policy from the “freedom for all” mantra that accompanied the splurge of academy school conversions in the early days of the Coalition Government and, seemingly, an acknowledgement that 1000’s of schools cannot be monitored and supported by an office of civil servants based in Whitehall without the introduction of a much called for Middle Tier.

This recognition of a need for a more local touch to school provision to encourage, maintain and grow good practice could be about to seep over into careers work in schools.

Just before the summer holiday the DfE released a written submission to the Education Select Committee who are due to hold a follow-up evidence session about their Careers Guidance inquiry with the SoS for Education in the Autumn. The document is a step by step reiteration of Government policy towards CEIAG scattered with references and links to put forward the message that things are slowly improving as schools grow into the expectations placed upon them but it also contains a few hints of more changes to come. Not least that, from October 2014, the role of the National Careers Service and it’s work with schools will be drastically remodeled.

National careers service

I am posting about this now as today I saw a job advertised that would be tasked with carrying out this new role for the Service. The job description for the role is an insight into not just what responsibilities this role will fill but also hints at how these “Careers Inspiration Managers” (official title or just a company invention?) would jigsaw together across the country working with schools in their areas. There is much that a school Careers Co-ordinator might welcome from the role such as the mentions of increasing the spread of clear Labour Market Intelligence and a clearer, more direct route to local CEIAG events with strong employer inputs. The things that would give me a pause though are the requirements to establish what schools are already doing (which in reality means more paperwork!) and this bullet point:

To work with the Business Development Director to identify new business opportunities for Futures within the Careers Inspiration agenda

which leads me to believe that at least some of the activities offered will come with either a standard monetary charge for schools or a pupil by pupil cost (or perhaps just accompanied by marketing to buy in the firm’s face to face IAG offer). If it is the case that it will be a cost per activity, then many schools will be hesitant about involving themselves with these offers.

There are also many references to working closely with the local Local Enterprise Partnership and, as the service provider, Futures, is based in Nottingham, I assume this refers to D2N2LEP. In my own experience the interaction between LEPs and school careers advisers has been severely lacking so this could be a welcome method for addressing the need to disseminate the local area skills needs and business priorities into schools. There is though, no indication that the Inspiration Managers patch will align with the LEP so, if not, how many Inspiration Managers will be working with each LEP? Will Managers have to work with more than one LEP? How will this all coagulate with the responsibilities Local Authorities still hold? Until the details of the new expectations on the NCS are released in the Autumn, there are still explanations to come on how this new structure will work in practice.

A social bookmarking solution @Diigo – all thanks to @CareersLucy

Come September 2014 my school’s email will be changing from the Capita service we’ve had for a number of years (in preparation for a BSF school build which was cancelled and is now a Priority Schools Build) to an Outlook based service. Not a problem you might think but this will also mean the end of our secure Managed Learning Environment (MLE) in which I’ve built a swish little careers section furnished with lots of links that I use everyday in face to face sessions with young people. While I’ve been promised that my data will be transferred to a new service (run by these guys), I’m long enough in the tooth now to know that public service IT gremlins are bound to hold this up so I’ve been searching for an online bookmarking solution that I can set up in case of possible problems.

Which is why, when I saw this post from @CareersLucy, I did a little skip of thanks to the heavens.

With the help of her video I’ve now set up my own Diigo profile, added a Chrome App and ported across all of the links that I find useful with young people. Some of them I use much more than others but you never know what corridors a careers conversation with a teenager will travel so it’s better to have the links with useful info to hand than not. I still need to spend some time adding and modifying my tags to ensure the links will be to hand as the conversation flows but even after only a couple of hours work I can see the site being really intuitive to use while talking to students and much easier to pass links onto students through email for them to read and check back on after sessions. I can also see it being extremely easy to add new sites of interest that I see on Twitter, so maintaining and updating my profile will be very streamlined.



The @Reddit community and Career Guidance

Even in the short time that I have been involved with Career Guidance there has been a notable movement of companies and organisations towards using not just traditional websites but also social media to spread the word about employment pathways in their area to young people. While sites such as Plotr have been specifically tasked to appeal to the younger generation with bright, colourful career areas full of easily navigable pictures, it is well-managed twitter accounts such as the recently established @borntobuilduk backed by the UK Contractors group which offer youngsters the chance to more fully engage by both asking direct questions and interacting with a number of appointed young guiding lights already working within the industry.

Other models such as MyKindaCrowd offer the chance for young people to submit applications in various challenges to secure rewards of various interactions with business areas they aspire to. Here though the community aspect is held at arm’s length as the site relies on teachers or youth workers to provide the organisation of the young people on the ground to actually enter the challenges.

The chance for Employer bodies to build communities of interested young minds inspired by their area of business clearly appeals to managers conscientious of future skills shortages and these interventions are hugely welcome from those of us looking to find the hook to spark an interest in their future from youngsters but it is yet another model that really holds the most potential for me.

Recently, the community based social news site Reddit launched a new sub-reddit called “JobFair”, a dedicated space for members to quiz (or in the terminology of the site “AMA” – ask me anything) other users who volunteer to post answers about their careers. This peer-to-peer interaction, based in a moderated online environment with the enhanced community aspects of a karma voting system for other users to reward positive and penalise negative contributions, holds much promise for a direct, honest and collaborative method of sharing career knowledge not bound by geography or ambition. A youngster with a phone anywhere in the world can now ask tips on how to be a successful bee-keeper. It really can get that niche. With the site now regularly averaging over 16 million unique users a month, the scope and potential is vast and not just confined to questions about users job roles. Sub-reddits to search for open positions have been set up, get general career guidance advice or help finding a route into a specific career, a dedicated section on entrepreneurs, internships, interview advice, CV advice…the list goes on. It’s the internet; build it and they will come. The job boards can get country or city specific, the career sub-reddits specific enough to focus on career areas such as Archaeology or charity work. In its essence it really is just people helping people.

There will be those within the Careers community who will balk at the messy, unregulated and sporadic nature of this sort of exploration experience. The fundamental requirement for safeguarding automatically rules out a Professional recommending a young person to use tools like this. For clients of all ages there are issues to cause caution as well. There is no guiding hand of a Professional to try to ensure quality or relevance of advice, there is only the individual to reflect on their own strengths, weaknesses and traits and, while there is moderation of posts and some verification of claims, the anonymous nature of the site still leaves the door open for unreliable information to be passed on without checks on bias or integrity.

But it is worth reiterating that this is not a free for all message posting board such as Craigslist and all of the horror stories sites like that have. Rules are set, moderation does occur and the community self rewards and chastises so positive possibilities remain with careful use. A school Careers Professional could set up a school account to source information from other users with career experiences not found in their local labour market or established range of contacts and then pass that on to their young client base. Those working with older clients could signpost to users who have become trusted in the community who could answer questions or historical threads, the Professional could use the community themselves to increase their knowledge of requirements or recruitment practices in specific job fields and internship and work opportunities could be sourced to then disseminate. As ever with both online and offline Careers information resources, it’s best that each Professional decides whether to explore it or not and become comfortable with how they could embed it in their own practice as another possible tool for the toolkit.