Month: January 2018

Think Small: The Surprisingly Simple Ways to Reach Big Goals – Nudging to better CEIAG outcomes

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I’ve posted before about the work of the Behavioural Insights Team (previously known as the Government nudge unit) and their work on designing and implementing changes to frameworks and procedures in the public and private spheres that result in greater positive gains.

Behavourial Science is a field with significant overlap in supporting CEIAG work. How young people make decisions at important transition points, why they aspire to certain routes, how people make and then stick with plans to enact change in their circumstances are all questions which mesh with Careers work both at the strategic, Government message level enacted via the Careers & Enterprise Company and at the much smaller, individual careers guidance sessions with clients level.

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Two of the team members are the latest to publish a book about their work. How “Think Small: The Surprisingly Simple Ways to Reach Big Goals” differs is that is takes the lessons from the big strategic projects the Insights Team have worked on and shows how the behavioural science theories then can be applied by individuals to their own circumstances.

As a read, I found the tone of book accessible but very convinced by the infallibility of behavioural economics as a science. They may have good reason to with the recent award of the Nobel Prize to Richard Thaler, but the absence of any mention of traditional psychological work or evolutionary science to explain behaviour and decision making is noticeable. Also obvious is the much repeated technique of involving the lives of the authors or their office colleagues to show how behavioural change techniques work for real people. While this is useful once or twice to show practical implications, by the fifth or sixth time the reader is hearing about Owain’s plan to balance his extremely well paid job with more exercise and the demands of his home life, your sympathy and interest does wane.

Spread throughout the book though are some fascinating nuggets that Careers practitioners could (and many probably already do to some extent) incorporate into practice.

For individual clients

Practitioners will know that an action plan should not merely be a wish list of future achievements but realistic steps which are time limited. This has shown to be effective for individuals across a wide range of public policy initiatives

Making a simple plan that sets out when, how and where you are going to follow through on your intentions has been shown to be effective at helping people to eat more fruit, increase public transport use, reduce discrimination, get more exercise, diet, improve academic performance, quit smoking and recycle more.

but for individuals the key seems to be linking actions to regular moments in a daily routine

you’re much more likely to follow through on the things you need to do to achieve it if you create a simple plan. And the best way of doing this is to create connections between moments in your daily routine and the actions you need to take.

and asking clients to write these action points down themsleves

The first, simple step, is to do exactly what the individuals in the re-running of the experiment did: write your commitment down.

Asking clients details of their daily routines to link commitments to is more the kind of intervention that a life coach would make rather than a careers practitioner but I could certainly see how a simple change towards the end of a guidance interview of asking the client to write their action points down themselves could drastically enhance the impact of that interview.

For longer term or returning clients, a practitioner may want to investigate more of the cycle of actions that “Think Small” proposes to spur change and adherence to that change.

SET

  • Choose the right goal
  • Focus on a single goal and set a clear target and deadline
  • Break your goal down into manageable steps

PLAN

  • Keep it simple
  • Create an actionable plan
  • Turn the plan into habits

COMMIT

  • Make a commitment
  • Write it down and make it public
  • Appoint a commitment referee

REWARD

  • Put something meaningful at stake
  • Use small rewards to build good habits
  • Beware of backfire effects

SHARE

  • Ask for help
  • Tap into your social networks
  • Use group power

FEEDBACK

  • Know where you stand in relation to your goal
  • Make it timely, specific, actionable and focused on effort
  • Compare your performance with others

STICK

  • Practice with focus and effort
  • Test and learn
  • Reflect and celebrate success

Some of those steps are common sense which any educator asking for improvement from a student would implement but steps such as “Put something meaningful at stake” (the book gives the example of wearing a rivals football shirt for a day at the office) can add a level of social fun that you can easily see working in practical situations with clients.

For cohorts

Many practitioners will also run group sessions for learners or work with year group cohorts. The book references studies that I’ve previously posted about that showed that sending letters of encouragement to high achieving young people in Year 12, “penned” by students from similar backgrounds, increased the number of applications and acceptances to Russell Group universities.  What may come as a blow to Careers practitioners though are the findings that presentations of data or talks

about the long-term benefits of attending university – are not effective. What does seem to work is pupils hearing about what it’s like to go to university from former pupils; such pupils inevitably dwelt on the lifestyle benefits as well as future career prospects.

In these instances it is the authenticity of the person delivering the message that seems to have the impact on learners rather the (ahem) more impartial or informed Careers practitioner. The lessons for practitioners is to ensure that their program of alumni engagement is collecting contact details and that a pool of ex students are ready to be approached to revisit their old haunts and deliver sessions to current learners alongside the impartial delivery. It is their stories that will help snowball your positive destination outcomes.

For us all

Careers practitioners will regularly speak to clients about the value of work and how different values appeal to different clients in finding job satisfaction and happiness at work. It seem though that a constant is there

if you rate your relationship with your boss one point higher on a ten-point scale, it is statistically equivalent to a 30 per cent pay rise

You have to find a good boss.

Overall

I would say that the book has some good lessons for CEIAG practitioners but readers should always be keeping in mind the wider literature around careers theory and social mobility. “Nudges” are clearly based upon interesting and provable behavioural science but the reasons that the State would employ such techniques (ease, low cost for return etc) are the opposite of the time intensive, personal service that CEIAG practitioners strive to offer clients.

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A letter to the new Careers Statutory Guidance for schools January 2018

So, we meet again, my old friend the Careers Statutory Guidance for schools. It’s been a long journey we’ve been on, you and I. It was way back in 2012 that you first appeared, much slimmer than your current form and with an almost naive belief that your lack of specificity or detail would encourage schools to cope with a new set of responsibilities suddenly thrust upon them.

Since then, year by year, you’ve grown and expanded. In 2013 you talked more about the “responsibilities” of a school

perhaps fearful that schools hadn’t paid much attention to your first appearance.

In 2014, you updated again, this time shaped by Matt Hancock who included much more on the positives of school/employer interaction.

By your 2015 incarnation, you were approaching a level of detail that brought warmer words from the professional bodies. The references to Quality Awards, employer engagement, professional face to face guidance where at least there, if the wording of could/should/must still sparked debate. By now though the continual expansion of the Duty document and the recommendations contained were in danger of designing a roof without worrying about the walls.

And so we reach your latest edition, “Careers Guidance and access for education and training providers January 2018” which is your most comprehensive to date. I understand that you can’t really help this bloat, since your inception the landscape around you has grown and you have to acknowledge this. You have to reference:

  • Careers & Enterprise Company
  • The recent Careers Strategy
  • The Baker Clause
  • What Ofsted will inspect
  • The Gatbsy benchmarks
  • Compass
  • Local Enterprise Partnerships

and all of the things still to come

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I want to commend you on much of your content, you’re full of recommendations and suggestions that Careers professionals working in schools would heartily agreed with. Of course Careers Leaders (to use your terminology) would want to include providers of all routes in their careers work, track and monitor the destinations of students, challenge work stereotypes, engage with employers, contract personal providers, consider and plan for the skills needs of the local labour market and work with all relevant stakeholders for the good of all pupils. The detail is there on how to achieve these things, the resources to use, the steps to take, the clarity provided by the Gatbsy benchmarks is wholly helpful.

You outline the “why” we want to achieve these things in a way that, again, would be music to a Careers professionals’ ears

good careers guidance connects learning to the future. It motivates young people by giving them a clearer idea of the routes to jobs and careers that they will find engaging and rewarding. Good careers guidance widens pupils’ horizons, challenges stereotypes and raises aspirations. It provides pupils with the knowledge and skills necessary to make successful transitions to the next stage of their life.

But here, I’m afraid, the praise and welcoming tone of my letter to you must end for you hope to achieve so much, yet offer so little. Much like your Careers Strategy step-father, your ambition outstretches your reach. Money, it seems, is not worthy of a mention.

To satisfy your requirements now, schools will need to fund

  • a salary at a level to entice a capable Careers Leader
  • funding for L6 IAG training for the Careers Leader (or) a contract with a L6 qualified provider
  • funding for work experience
  • funding for coach trips to events such as the Skills Show, employer visits or visits to other providers such as Universities
  • a budget to cover the costs of events in school
  • admin support for this post

And, because of the need from September 2018 to publish their Careers plan, schools will have to think carefully about the provision they publicly commit to and the funding this will require from future budgets. And this omission is not for the lack of numbers. We know that Gatbsy & PWC did the work in great detail.

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You’ve just chosen to ignore it and hope that, somehow, schools will just deal with these new costs every year.

I’m sure that we’ll meet again soon, you already mention a September 2018 update, in the meantime I hope that you acknowledge, at least, that quality outcomes do not just come from standards papers. Investment begets performance and that the level of quality provision you outline does require, I’m afraid, investment.

CEC annual accounts 2017

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Since the dissolution of the Connexions framework for delivering CEIAG across England, the placing of the statutory duty upon schools to provide this provision and the establishment of the Careers & Enterprise Company to oversee this area of policy, the hardest thing to track and keep an accountable comparison record of has been the amount of public funds allocated by Government.

At the time of its passing, the annual £200m of funding that Connexions received was much used to highlight just how big of change was being planned by the then Government. Asking schools to fulfill the same level of provision while only retaining a £4.7m web and phone National Careers Service out of the Connexions pot was always going to be a test for resource levels.

The establishment of the Careers & Enterprise Company came with a slew of funding stream promises which were difficult to disentangle to find the overall package worth. Announcements in the budget gave (in political lingo) the spending envelope but, still, left out the detail for how the pie was to be split. It was also worth remembering during the period that the CEC was originally floated it was allocated a £20m start up pot but that it would then be fully employer funded.

Another piece of the jigsaw to complete the funding picture was filed in November 2017 as the Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year ended March 2017 for the CEC were filed at Companies House.

The audited accounts show that for the financial year ending March 2017, the CEC’s income rose to £14,732,430 from £6,204,509 the previous year and that this sum came solely from a Government grant for both years. For 16/17 this is actually less than the £19.5m set aside by the Government for the CEC but the “resource expenditure” was lower than expected.

The CEC is leasing its Clerkenwell Green offices no more than a year in advance (future lease commitments page 19).

The Statement also details that the number of staff is now up to 24 from 9 in 2016 as the Company has expanded its research and outreach teams (page 15). The wage bill of £1,335,319 means that the average salary for a CEC employee is a little over £55,000. Enterprise Coordinators will not be included in this as, I think, their wages come from the Local Enterprise Partnerships.

Elsewhere in the document, the Strategic and Directors reports outline the CEC plans and goals including it’s “ambition..to bring together the best technology to create a digital system for careers and enterprise activity” or Lord Young’s long mooted Enterprise Passport. Lord Young himself is a Director of the CEC and was one of the three on the Incorporation of “Enterprise for Education Ltd” as the organisation was originally named. £11m external funding has been “secured” for the Investment Funds program of researched provision while page 2 also boasts of another £15m of external funding being “leveraged” to “increase investment in the system.” These could also be public funds from Government or bodies such as LEPS.

Page 2 confirms that the CEC has been funded by the Government for 17/18.

As you can see, even with an end of financial year statement, finding a total amount of public funding being spent on CEIAG provision isn’t easy. Add to the sums mentioned in this document can be the funding for the National Careers Service, the Job Centre Plus work in schools, branding and promotion schemes such as YourLife or the Year of Engineering 2018 and you have a multitude of funding streams with changeable annual budgets. These type of documents are important though for they detail the actual expenditure of the CEC and not the canny accounting which can conjure up the figures in politicians speeches.