Month: December 2014

MP’s ask for student views on Apprenticeships; get some help, the odd crazy but mostly tumbleweed

(all post counts etc correct at the time of writing)

As part of their inquiry into Apprenticeships for 16-19 year olds the Education Select Committee have, to be fair to them, tried to be proactive and reach out beyond the usual suspects to gain views from both actual apprentices and their peers in this age group by hosting a number of threads on

They’ve posted 4 threads:

1) Where you told about about Apprenticeships as part of your careers guidance?

Which has 9 actual replies including the helpful from recent school leavers who all reinforce the line that Apprenticeships were offered as an option for students with expected lower grades and the not so helpful (“I was shipped off to fight in **** holes across the world. So, no.” – ok chief, thanks for that).

2) Who should provide information about Apprenticeships?

Which has a small number of contributions from 4 posters who all suggest that there should be a central online portal for young people to access apprenticeship vacancies. The marketing team at NAS, to the back of the class with you immediately.

3) What did you get out of your Apprenticeship?

Currently overflowing with the grand total of 3 responses, all of which has positive feedback from posters regarding their Apprenticeship experience but perhaps the lack of response to this question might reinforce what the Committee already knows. There just aren’t that many young people completing Apprenticeships.

4) Why do an Apprenticeship? What puts people off?

Compared to the others this thread is Times Square on New Years Eve. Over 3 pages of comments ranging from the thoughtful (“A degree is for life, not just for one business”), to the very well informed to positive views from employers but throughout a common complaint about the perception of the low level of pay recurs, perhaps summed up best by this comment:

They are seen as being low paid, because nobody realises/cares about the qualifications. More needs to be done to highlight the issue. Going to uni gets paid nothing (well, you get a loan to pay back, and sometimes grants) but most people don’t say they’d be better off working in Tesco than getting a degree.

But I think this is part of a wider problem, in that unless you have parents to support you an apprenticeship is not an option. You’re generally not eligible for a student bank account with overdraft, and can’t live in student accommodation. Some apprenticeships will provide accommodation, but probably most don’t. So for people from low-income families it’s unrealistic – their family can’t support them whilst they earn £2 an hour.

I hope that what little response they’ve had through this route doesn’t put the Committee off in future trying to access young people’s views using non traditional routes like this and the small nuggets of insight they have received are useful in guiding their recommendations.

Laying the groundwork for the new Careers Company: BIS research paper 206

A 140 page research paper from the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills isn’t something that would usually take up my reading time the week before Christmas but I made a special exception this year as a) it comes at a time of positive change in the sector with news of a new all singing, all dancing Careers Company and b) I was interviewed for the paper and my school gets a mention (cough, page 112, cough and in the interviews from page 46, further cough).

With the announcement of the new Careers Company whose role it will be to try to co-ordinate the sporadic, tangled and often overlapping interactions between schools, employers and the National Careers Service (and all of the organisations in-between those gaps such as EBPs, new versions of EBPs, guidance providers, careers resources providers, national schemes etc) the findings and conclusions of this paper will be required reading for Christine Hodgson, Head of Capgemini UK, who has been tasked with leading the new Company.

Some of the things in the report that she will probably note:

  • All of the schools in the case study section (pages 110 – 115) have a Careers lead in their establishment. That role requires a Head or Principal to a) fund it and b) think CEIAG is important enough to fund and staff in the first place. That importance and funding seems to be hitting a breaking point for work experience for KS4 though. The Wolf report is still being used as a white flag for cash strapped schools to retreat from offering this provision.
  • Schools want brokerage (point 6, page 6), they want local cohesion and organisation. Employers also want this (point 3, page 5) as it would lower costs and efforts their end.
  • Employers don’t even know the National Careers Service exists (point 8, page 6) so before it is expected to fulfill lots of new tasks, some work on spreading the word needs to be done.
  • The numbers of employers involving themselves with engagement activities other than work experience is pitifully small (table 3.1, page 21) and by far the largest initiator of those activities was the employer being approached by the school or college (table 3.2, page 22) rather than the employer offering something. Lots of schools nagging employers leads to the disjointed landscape we have now and, again, local brokerage could begin to untie these knots.
  • More than half of employers had never engaged with education (page 25). There’s a massive job of persuasion still to do especially with SMEs.
  • Already existing local business networks such as Chambers of Commerce are still pretty untapped by schools looking for employer engagement (table 4.3, page 37).
  • It’s pretty clear what brokerage role schools want from a National Careers Service with expanded duties (page 51) which is also what the Service wants to do but doesn’t have the cash (page 56).
  • Employers see Local Enterprise Partnerships as having a key role in local brokerage (page 75).
  • Schools really want clear LMI to help guide their students (page 75).

It will be those findings that (should) shape the tentative steps of the new Careers Company in the new year as it begins to lay out the structures and frameworks that will help organise and standardise employer engagement at regional and local levels for schools and colleges.

2 million Apprenticeship starts

There was lots of news and buzz this morning as BiS announced that the 2 millionth apprenticeship had started since the last general election.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has revealed that 16-year-old Paige McConville became the 2 millionth apprentice when she started an advanced apprenticeship at high-tech engineering firm FMB Oxford in August.

Many congratulations should go to Paige for securing what, I would assume, would be a very sought after position.

It would be fair to say though that, as a young, female apprentice in a STEM industry attempting to redress a gender imbalance, she does make the lives of the press release team at the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills extremely, shall we say, easy.

It’s worth pointing out that, in 13/14, Under 19 Advanced Level Apprenticeship starts were 34,800 out of a total of Under 19 starts of 117,800.

apprenticeship startsWhich makes Paige as an Under 19 start one of the (just over) 27% of total starts and, as an Under 19 Advanced Level starter, one of (just over) 8% of total starts. Kick back BiS PR team, your work here is done.

An Autumn Statement dollar, dollar bill y’all

Today was a good news day in CEIAG world. At the Autumn Statement to the House of Commons, George Osborne pulled a Careers rabbit out of the hat and promised a £20 million cash injection into Careers advice for young people.

added to the recent contract changes to the National Careers Service and the funding equivalence involved (5% of about £109.5m)

it is great to see this vital work with young people getting cash backing. It was certainly welcomed by the National Careers Council

NCC chairwoman Deirdre Hughes said: “It is great to see the government recognising that more needs to be done to support young people with career decisions.

“This is an important step in the right direction. The key will be how the funds will be used to have the greatest impact and I will be very interested to see how the plans unfold.

“It would always be good to have more money. One of our three options we gave to government to improve services was costed at £17.5 million, so £20 million is a good step.”

So does that mean that George was all








and we’re all going to be








Well no, not quite. Cast your mind back to the Gatsby Foundation report which asked Price Waterhouse Coopers to cost a comprehensive and quality school Careers program. Their conclusion was, “that the total cost of achieving all the benchmarks in a typical school will be £53,637 in the first year and £44,676 per annum thereafter.” Their costing for all secondary schools in England to achieve the benchmarks would then be, “£172 million per year from the second year onwards.”

Of course asking for around another £150m when you’ve just been given £20m seems churlish and unhelpful but, we should remember that this funding promise is just a start and that £20m will have to be spent extremely prudently for discernible impacts to be felt.