More Careers inquiry fandango

Recent weeks have seen not one but two sessions on CEIAG held by the joint Education & Business sub-committee. In fact, due to Ministerial illness, a third is soon to come. What a time to be alive.

The first session, with witnesses from the CDI, Careers England, AELP and the West Midlands LEP, was not broadcast as it was held away from the Westminster estate so only a written record has been published while the second session, with witnesses from the Careers Enterprise Company, the National Careers Service and Ofsted, is online for your viewing pleasure.

Across these two sessions there’s a couple of things which peaked my interest.

  1. The CDI are treading very carefully around the funding issue

Suggesting that HE Widening Participation funds be funneled off to help fund careers support might be an idea with merit and fit as a solution to the dropout data but asking funding to be directed from another strand of the social mobility levers isn’t without downsides. Careers work with young people is something that a Government should see as a stand alone good and fund as such. In the current climate, asking Government for cash is a sure fire way to be swiftly shown the meeting room exit door which makes persuasion harder but it shouldn’t be dodged because of this.

The confusion over strategic funding ideals and what this funding gets spent on (see point 5) is also exacerbated by the strong call from all witnesses for Careers Quality Marks to be an integral part of any recommendations put forward by the Committee. This would come with a significant cost for schools currently under huge financial pressure (plus the forthcoming evidence toolkit will surely weaken the argument for quality awards even further, but that’s another blog). The issue of funding needs a joined up message from the CDI and not left to other unions.

2. The National Careers Service offer for young people isn’t being held to account 

Around the 16.30pm mark Joe Billington, the Director of the National Careers Service, is asked how many young people have used the phone service but the conversation is diverted and the answer never comes. The most recent data shows that just 4% of the 25,000 telephone users of the service were 19 or under (page 19). That isn’t enough.

3. Generally, the MPs didn’t seem very well briefed

Around the 16.38pm mark, a number of the MP’s seem shocked to learn that a wealth of data on skills mismatches and employer views on the employability of young people was already readily available even before the Careers Enterprise Company used it to form their “cold spots” map. Both the UKCES Employer Perspectives survey and the annual Employer Skills survey have this information in droves. That these MPs, on this specific sub-committee, looking at this specific issue, were not aware of this is baffling. Amanda Milling MP then goes onto ask about the interaction between business and schools, it’s true that a lot has been published on this subject but, at the very least, could she not be aware of the work from the department she is meant to be scrutinising?

4. Relying on Ofsted to be the all knowing overseer of careers work in schools is a busted flush

They don’t have the time, the capacity nor the inspection framework to do it. It isn’t happening on the scale it needs to now and, with the ongoing move to a school lead system and a new Chief Inspector to be appointed, won’t in the future.

5. This is a lot of strategic stuff without asking, “Day to day, who’s talking to young people?”

For all of this talk about “umbrella” organisations, Quality Marks and websites not a lot of time or attention seems to be focused on who is actually going to enabling this provision for and with young people. To their credit, the CDI are clear in their expectation of suitable CPD and qualification status for professionals and the work of the Careers Enterprise company will help provision levels. Helping schools focus on, fund and find time for careers work to happen seems to be the roll your sleeves up work though nobody wants to roll their sleeves up for.

Side note – If I was a tinfoil hat wearing type I would also note that, last year, the revamped careers duty for schools was released on the 25th March and the Guidance the year before that on April 14. Postponing the Ministerial witness session to beyond those dates this year could allow them to appear in front of the Committee with a new document to offer.

 

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3 comments

  1. Hi, The CDI has been very clear about the issue of funding for schools and CEIAG Awards: it is our belief that the Government should provide capacity building monies for schools and colleges for two years: Year 1 for schools that commit to work towards a quality award; Year 2 to help them achieve the Award – payment on achievement of the Award. We referenced this in our submission to the Select Committee and it is a mantra that I reiterate at every public opportunity. Jan Ellis, CDI Chief Executive

    1. Hi Jan, thanks for your comment and the clarification on the CDI position on funding. That’s a positive step but still a position that would leave schools and careers advisers in schools in a no win situation.

      The CDI submission recommends that “the Statutory Guidance to schools and colleges should be re-structured using the Gatsby benchmarks” while at the same time taking the stance that “Schools have been allocated no additional funding to take on responsibility for a service that previously cost local authorities £200 million per annum to provide. We accept that in the current economic climate we cannot expect an immediate return to this level of resourcing.”

      Meanwhile, the costings in the Gatbsy report for the level of provision it recommends are £181m in Year 1 and £172m from Year 2, roughly similar to the £200m. My rough calculations are that around £5m is needed for all schools to undertake a quality mark so my fear would be that any capacity building grant would only cover those costs and not offer any funds for actual provision. If the requests of funding from the CDI are pitched at that level, my opinion of a better use of the funds would be to give to schools to run provision and let us be judged on quality of provision by destination measures of students.

      Asking schools to be tested on the quality of provision they can’t afford to offer leaves us in a tough place, If the CDI wants a Gatsby level of provision, then it needs to acknowledge the levels of funding necessary to deliver a Gatsby of provision.

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