Month: March 2018

The EDu Taskforce apprenticeship report didn’t have recommendations for employers so I added some

After writing this blog for all these years, a few returning themes certainly start to emerge. A regular concern I have posted about is the erroneous view (in my opinion) that the low percentages of young people gaining apprenticeships is not down to an awareness issue but due to more complex mix of lack of vacancies & demand outstripping supply, the negative perception of the quality of apprenticeships, employers hiring practices and views favouring older applicants and lack of efficacy in their applications due to their poor networks, work experience and failure to explain their transferable skills. Addressing these issues would take significant investment in student support mechanisms (eg staff) and a culture change in employment hiring so the far easier soundbite for policy makers has always been to bemoan the awareness of apprenticeships in young people.

The position that I disagree with has gained substantive backing with the release of new report from the Education & Employers Taskforce.

This is a piece of work from the researchers who’s previous findings have, I think it’s fair to say, had a substantial impact on the CEIAG policy direction in recent years.

The report uses the following statistic:

Recent government figures have shown that despite the overall number of apprenticeships increasing, the number of under 19s starts have stagnated at around 20%

as a launchpad for examining the methods and practices of schools from which a higher proportion of students do progress into apprenticeships. The Taskforce, quite sensibly, want to amplify those practices and see how expandable they are for all schools. Some of the useful lessons to be learnt are that

In seeking to address the negative attitudes and assumptions young people hold about apprenticeships, the literature suggests that increasing the level of authentic exposure of young people to the apprenticeship route could be helpful.

which is a branch of the previous findings of the Taskforce that employer encounters are beneficial to employment outcomes of learners.

Useful tips to consider when designing school CEIAG provision include altering CV writing sessions by using application form writing frames instead as

Only five of the employers surveyed mentioned using CVs at any point when hiring apprentices, with thirteen instead making reference to an online assessment or
application form which contained a number of write in questions. In our sample of schools, however, CV workshops were still highlighted by the majority of respondents as a method for preparing young people for job applications.

but also more generic recommendations such as promoting higher and degree apprenticeships more, promoting with students at a younger age and raising the profile of apprenticeships with parents. These are all aims which any school Careers professional would agree with and strive for. The survey findings acknowledge the transformative effect good careers work that utilises employers can have

Schools remain, based on the responses given by young people (see figure 1), a key source of information for future possibilities as much as employers. In particular, for those young people who do not have access to personal connection, schools may be major players in raising awareness and broadening aspirations

The report also looks at the desire of young people to want to pursue an apprenticeship

edu apprenticeships1

which, on the face of things, suggests that apprenticeships do not entice enough young people to even attempt to apply for them. What is missing though from this response is the contextual data that show that many more young people apply for apprenticeship vacancies than there are vacancies to begin with

so, even with that low-interest base, the current labour market intelligence shows any young person that securing an apprenticeship is much more difficult than gaining a place at a Sixth Form or FE College. This is acknowledged elsewhere in the report

Demand for apprenticeships from young people far outstrips supply. According to data from the National Apprenticeship Service and the governments FE data library, more than 1.6 million online applicants competed for 211,380 vacancies posted online in 2016

Which makes it odd then that, the report does not mirror the recommendations for schools and include recommendations for employers. So here are the ones which I think they should’ve included to achieve more young people transferring into an apprenticeship before 19.

1. Advertise more apprenticeship vacancies

Because of the above

2. Pay them more

Using current apprentices as role models is a wise method of provision. The Young Apprentice Ambassador Network should be in the toolbox of every school Careers Leader. But if you really want the value of good word of mouth to cascade down from those current apprentices, listen to their own feedback and increase the wages offered.

edu apprenticeships2

3. Make your hiring process more accessible

Careers Leaders understand that it’s their job to increase the employability of young people and that includes making them able to decode and navigate the application process but please, meet us halfway. Many apprenticeship application processes at larger companies are unnecessarily complex from the initial web search (no, vacancies in Doha are not of interest) to the language used. This was highlighted in a recent article by Paul Johnson, Director of the IFS

This could also include having downloadable pdf’s of your application form on your school leaver or apprenticeship website so that practitioners could print these off and use them in a group session.

4. Stop bemoaning the influence of parents

The report includes references to literature, surveys and feedback

Many parents of our generation were brought up during the old YTS days and perceptions have stuck for example parents calling it slave labour. Parents also question the loss of child benefit and many will prevent their children from doing an apprenticeship based on this factor. I recently had a conversation with a parent of a 17-year-old at our 6th form who is stopping her son because of this

that highlights parents as negative influencers on young people thinking about apprenticeships. But excludes data that suggests that attitudes are changing such as the recent Varkey Foundation global survey of parents

 

5. Be honest about your skill requirements & consider new hires instead

Many apprenticeships are not new jobs but training schemes for current employees. As the 2015 Ofsted report “Developing skills for future prosperity” noted

Nationally, considerably more 16- to 18-year-olds apply for apprenticeships
than those aged 25 and over, but far fewer become apprentices. Approximately 40% of the 19,000 learners on apprenticeships at the providers visited were aged 25 and over, whereas only 29% were aged 16 to 18. Most of these older apprentices were already employed in jobs that were converted to apprenticeships.

The Taskforce report also fails to acknowledge this, so the starting point assumption that all apprenticeships were open to school leavers to apply to is a false premise.

The Ofsted report also includes typical employer viewpoints such as

the employers interviewed frequently said that they were reluctant to take a young apprentice straight from school. Two factors dominated their rationale for this.

  • They believed too many 16-year-old school leavers lacked personal
    presentation and communication skills, or gave the impression at interview
    that they were immature and unreliable.
  • They recognised that employing an apprentice required a significant
    investment in time to train them in the generic employability skills and did
    not feel they could afford this.

which shows the hurdles that young applicants have to overcome.

This report and the accompanying sector news coverage paint a simplified view of the issues around young people and apprenticeship uptake which contends that, if only awareness was higher; then more young people would secure apprenticeships. The concern for me is that this view will find only too welcoming a home in the minds of policy makers looking for easy blames and quick fixes. As ever, the actual solution of not just improving awareness but also the employability, cultural capital, application and recruitment efficacy of young people and changing the hiring culture and stereotypical views of employers, is a challenge that would require a much more herculean level of investment, time and effort.

 

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The impact of the Your Life STEM campaign

An unexpected arrival in my postbox recently was the Your Life Campaign Impact report

IMG_20180315_092733540

as the 3 year campaign drew to a close in December 2017.

Back in 2014 I blogged that the launch seemed more hype than substance but, as is the case with a number of nationwide careers promotional campaigns, actual provision for young people can be spread thinly across the country and take a number of years to build up a head of steam.

Now though, while the social media accounts are still (at the time of writing) up and the Future Finder STEM job matching site rebranded across to The Female Lead campaign (also run by the ex Your Life Chair Edwina Dunn (actual name Edwina Humby) the YouTube account has been closed, the website 404s and no further activities or events will run under the Your Life banner.

Launched by Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary back in the simpler time of 2014 under the coalition government, the campaign was tasked with the remit of helping to

open young people’s eyes to what studying STEM subjects could mean for their future.

but more specifically to

raise the status of STEM subjects, and increase the number of students studying maths and physics at A level by 50% within 3 years.

This work came under the wider banner of public policy of improving the public understanding of maths and science. This also added the following objectives:

  1. change the way young people think about maths and science by raising awareness of the exciting and wide-ranging careers that studying these subjects can lead to
  2. increase the opportunities for all people and particularly women to pursue a wide range of careers that need skills in science, technology, engineering and maths

The Impact Report details how the campaign approached achieving this by

  • working with ” a team of Emmy Award winning writers” to produce a series of Youtube videos (140 videos produced with 1.5 million views racked up)
  • Organising trips to for school students to STEM employers (I took a group to an Amazon depot under this banner a few years ago)
  • A competition called Formula 100 that “generated hundreds of entries”
  • Releasing the Tough Choices report
  • Designing the Future Finder app and website
  • Media coverage
  • The STEM school Finder website allowing the public to find schools offering STEM A Levels

To help them with some of these initiatives, Your Life engaged the data science company, Starcount, to “develop the right engagement triggers for different teenage audiences” which led their “content strategy” through avenues such as Youtube. It should be noted, that Edwina Dunn is CEO of Starcount, among other business ventures.

To fund this work the Your Life CIC filing at Companies House, details how the campaign received £1,012,090 through to 2016 in funding. The full accounts posted for the period up to February 2017 reported no more such income. All accounts report that the directors received no payment for their time but the 2017 return does detail that

yourlife1

which means that, across the 3 year period, Mrs Humby’s other businesses received £84,300 from the campaign funds.

The value gained from this investment of over one million pounds should be judged on the objectives set. The most clearly measurable is to see if there has been a substantive rise in the percentage of students taking Maths and Science at A Level. Figures the include this period from the Joint Council of Qualifications

a level entries

and Ofqual

yourlife2

show that the percentage of entries in these subjects has barely increased percentage wise. Even the base numbers, at a time of rising populations, don’t show much movement

In 2014 83,200 students took Maths A Level – in 2017 this had risen to 88,830

Biology 2014 – 58,090 and in 2017 fallen to 56,950

Chemistry 2014 – 49,130 and in 2017 – 48,760

Physics 2014 – 33,590 and in 2017 – 33,840

The Impact Report does everything it can to not mention this failure to, well, impact on these numbers preferring instead to focus on social media views. The report is mindful of the giant strides that still need to be taken

Your Life can only go so far. Despite our successes, shifting the dial significantly requires a structural solution

which does elicit some sympathy from me. In the cash starved world of CEIAG provision, a million pounds over three years is a huge amount of money but to achieve the change and impact Your Life was tasked with, it was nowhere near enough to even scratch the surface. Now succeeded by the very similar Year of Engineering, the Your Life campaign shows that Government intervention can be well meaning but is regularly given too tiny tools to tackle too large a job.

 

Bored students at Careers events (part 2)

Part one here: https://fecareersiag.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/a-picture-collection-bored-students-at-careers-events/

 

The girl on the left: “Ah, you’re taking a photo of me I see and I am so not impressed.”

 

“Miss, no WAY!” *hides under coat*

 

 

Chap on the right is thinking, “I’m never coming to this office again.”

 

 

 

Picture bottom left – “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”

 

 

 

The boy at the front, turning back seems to be crying out with his eyes for the sweet, sweet release of gentle death (or just the end of period 2) to get him out of there.

 

The girl in the bottom right picture looking over her shoulder!

As previously, putting on Careers events is hard work and to be celebrated for the positive outcomes they achieve. There will always be the odd nonplussed teenager who’s momentary grimace will make it into any quick promo snap. Keep putting on those careers events because we know they work and tell the world about them so the outdated view of careers work in schools becomes exactly that, outdated.

The Cold Spots accountability hole

 

Following on from the previous post on this blog looking at how the non publication of apprenticeship vacancy, starts, registrations and applications data by age will mean an accountability hole when judging the progress of the Careers Strategy and schools guidance documents, this is a sequel post of sorts looking at another data accountability gap that will cause the Careers & Enterprise Company some problems.

The release of the Company’s Cold Spots research in 2015 drew together a number of data sources from other Government departments and quangos to map the weaker and stronger areas of employer engagement focused careers provision across England. This audit was useful as it allowed the Company to focus pilot schemes and target initial provision into the locations that needed it the most.

The Company has recently released a short, 2017 update to that original Cold Spots report that, according to those external data sources, shows a “warming” in career outcomes for young people across England.

coldspots1

This map shows that only one Local Enterprise Partnership area (Thames Valley Berkshire) has regressed and was now returning a higher number of cold spot indicators than in 2015. As the report itself says though, “it is too early to make claims about causality” and this is included for good reason. The original 2015 Cold Spots were based on 9 external data sources

Deprivation indicator:
– % Pupils known to be eligible for and claiming free school meals (FSM)1
2013/14
Employer engagement indicators i.e., “cold spots”
– % Employer establishments who had anyone in on work experience2 in the
last 12 months
– % Employer establishments who offered any work inspiration3 in the last
12 months
Outcome indicators:
– % Pupils attaining 5A*-C GCSE results in England 2013 – 14
– % A-levels entered that are STEM4 2013 – 14
– % STEM4 A-levels that are entered by girls 2013 – 145
– % In sustained apprenticeship destinations post key stage 4 (KS4) 2012/13
– % 16-17 year olds NEET (not in education, employment and training), as
reported by LA in June 2015
– % Employers answering: 16 year old school leavers are “poorly” or “very
poorly prepared” for work
– % Employers answering: 17-18 year olds recruited to first time job from
school are “poorly” or “very poorly prepared” for work

The 2016 update continued to use these sources but now the 2017 update finds itself in a quandary as two of those sources (the two employer returns from the UKCES employer survey data looking at satisfaction of school leaver skills & the offers of work experience and work inspiration activities from businesses) are no longer reporting in the same manner. This is due to the closure of UKCES. The responsibility to continue the survey moved to the DfE but the data gathered will be from a smaller sample size (around 18,000 telephone interviews in the 2016 edition vs over 91,000 telephone and face to face interviews in the UKCES editions) leaving the CEC with a dilemma. They need to both show progress on the continuing funded work both in cold spot areas (opportunity areas in Government speak) across the country but also to show the distance traveled from the starting point since the CEC’s inception this data has to be somewhat comparable year on year.

This leaves the CEC relying on GCSE results data and student destination data which are useful outputs to monitor but are one-sided in focusing on the supply side of students entering the workplace. The views of the demand side from employers would not now be comparable across past years.

Thus the recent publication ends with a consultative call for suggestions on which data points to use to achieve this. The CEC should be wary about using data supplied by employer bodies such as the CBI as, historically, this has been much more scathing on the work readiness of school leavers entering the labour market and much more positive about the contribution of business offering experiences to young people. The UKCES returns told a story of employers being much more satisfied with the employability skills of young people and of a significantly smaller amount of engagement provision with education. So the first stipulation for any new data sources the CEC use, would be that they should be from impartial sources. On the flip side to this coin, data supplied by LEPs should also be considered with an arched eyebrow for they will be keen to champion the success of Government funding in their own patch.

It’s also worth pointing out that the improving “warming” outcomes are in direct opposition to survey results from young people who report a lower number of employer engagements last academic year.

Does asking young people what they actually experienced meet the criteria the CEC is looking for?

Another factor for the CEC to consider is that trends in some of these data points are very much at the whim of changeable Government policy. Putting aside the example of UKCES closing it’s doors, using the number of KS4 leavers in sustained Apprenticeship destinations is commendable but since 2015 the Apprenticeship Levy has reshaped that sector, initially caused a drop in overall numbers of starts and begun to grow the provision that is left towards higher and degree apprenticeships and away from the Level 2 Apprenticeships open to 16-year-old GCSE leavers. The Higher Education Funding review could yet again change levels of tuition fees and so impact the desired destinations of young people. Perhaps the case is being made for the CEC to allocate some of its funding to tender for its own data collections and not be reliant on other arms of the State but, at a scale similar to UKCES level data collection, this would need significant investment.

It is the task of the CEC, to make a quantifiable impact on an area of public policy with multiple inputs and multiple outputs and, with their expanded remit in the Careers Strategy, the number of inputs will only grow. Getting the data points right to measure that impact is proving tricky.