In the dying embers of 2015 the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission released their annual “State of the Nation” report which included numerous references to careers work in schools and how, as part of a wider raft of measures, this work could restart the mobility engine of the UK.
So, as the new year and the new term is already chugging along at full steam, a reminder of why we do what we do and some ideas for what we could be involved with.
So, the UK’s current situation is not good
The report is clear that the current school accountability system is not conducive to placing an importance on careers work
The report calls for a strengthening of this accountability measure including
• A new destinations measure, which relates all students’ outcomes post-18 to their secondary school, regardless of whether or not they conducted their post-16 study at the same institution. Government should seek to use new data-linking models to build in data on the destinations of students who are not in higher education post-19.
Interesting, the report also takes a stab at the continual problem of the ‘chicken and egg’ scenario undermining non HE routes in the UK
Today non-graduates tend to come from low income backgrounds and often end up in low pay, low-progression careers. There is a jungle of qualifications, courses and institutions which students find hard to penetrate. Quality is variable and there is little or no visibility about outcomes. Nor is the system working as well as it should for the economy with skills shortages in precisely those areas – construction, technical and scientific skills – that vocational education is supposed to supply. Unlike higher education, where the cap on student numbers has been lifted, there is more demand for apprenticeships than there are places and a dramatic under-supply of higher-level apprenticeships.
In short, there are too few top apprenticeship opportunities, and they are not shared fairly. The lack of top-end, non-graduate options reduces the attractiveness of the route, despite some leading to better earnings than university degrees. So most of the brightest young people simply opt out of this route altogether. Young people who do well in exams at the point of the 16-plus choose the A level option because they believe it is better. This is reinforced by teachers, parents and careers advisers. It has led to the current situation where the non-graduate track is perceived as a route for those who are less capable.
The incessant call from bodies such as the CBI and the AoC for schools to promote apprenticeships better should be heard and relate squarely to the accountability measures issue mentioned above but a bigger target remains. To misquote a great movie, “build it and they will come” is surely now the objective for the apprenticeship route.
The report also looks at the gap in participation in HE and is particularly scathing about the gap at selective universities
Lots of recommendations are made for both the state and the private sector which CEIAG work can and should support.
Recommendation 2: The Government should make clear its absolute commitment to narrowing the educational attainment gap at a national level and confirm it by launching a new set of social mobility measures at a national, local authority and school level.
For the vocational sector:
Recommendation 1: New apprenticeships should be targeted at higher-level courses and young people: there should be 30,000 young people starting a higher-level apprenticeship a year by 2020.
Recommendation 2: A new UCAS-style website should be created for vocational education within two years so that young people can see what progression, employment and earnings opportunities they are likely to achieve.
Recommendation 4: By 2020 the Government should reduce the NEET rates of 16–18-year-olds to 3 per cent or less (or around 55,000), in line with the best performing OECD countries. This should be underpinned by a new social investment fund worth around £50 million to pay for the successful outcomes of NEET prevention schemes
For the graduate sector:
Recommendation 1: The Government’s widening participation commitment requires around 12,000 more students from low participation areas to enter HE in 2020 compared to today. To ensure outreach activity accelerates to meet this vision, 5 per cent of universities’ widening participation funding – around £40 million – should be ringfenced for collaborative action and coordinated by OFFA and the new Office for Students.
Recommendation 2: The Government should create a single online portal for young people to access public sector internships by 2017.
In the week that maintenance grants for the poorest students were scrapped, how much attention will Government pay to such suggestions or how much impact their own policy ideas will have, will have to wait to be seen.