An annual stop on the CEIAG/Skills report Wurlitzer ride is the CBI & Pearson Education & Skills survey which this year served up some rehashing of past hits but also some valuable suggestions for sector improvement.
Now that the Gatsby Benchmarks are in place and that schools are, on the face of things, showing progress towards achieving them, the CBI must find a balancing act between spurring on the education sector to achieve policy outcomes for it’s members while also acknowledging that the employer engagement it has long called for is now being reported from respondents from the world of education. Previously, the CBI’s position of decrying schools for not involving employers while simultaneously praising businesses for working with lots of schools was a standpoint that fell apart the moment anyone considered the logic of such a claim.
This agreement on the wider direction of travel is missing more nuanced interrogation though. The current CBI survey does not include questions on the awareness of the CEC or it’s work among the business community
When, in 2017, the CBI did ask members they found that
Which is strange to not then follow up on.
Of course, much of the work of the CEC is to create the space for Schools and Colleges to achieve bottom up, system wide improvement in CEIAG but without the view from business on their efficacy and reach this leaves open questions on the value of the Cornerstone employers scheme or their wider employer engagement work.
The challenge now facing the CBI is to highlight other positive offers and promises from their business respondents but while doing so sidestep the problem of merely rehashing previous predictions. For example, the claim of future growth in apprenticeship recruitment in this year’s survey rings hollow following similar claims from previous years that did not then materialize. In 2016 the survey (with suitable pre-Levy caveats) was positive about future growth
Across all of our respondents this year, 71% are either already running an apprenticeship programme or are planning to expand one. In addition, 16% are planning to create a programme in the next three years. This means the number of businesses that do not have a programme or have no intention of getting involved, has fallen 6% from last year
while, even post Levy introduction, the positive picture was still present in 2017
Business is already heavily invested in apprenticeships and committed to doing more to meet business needs. Across our respondents this year, 83% are either already running an apprenticeship programme or are planning to expand one
Of course, the wider winds of policy change can blow and alter plans so the CBI would point out their member’s view on the hindering impact the Apprenticeship Levy has had on investment in apprenticeship training while other stakeholders take the view that public money comes with necessary regulatory checks or limits. Time will tell if the 2019 claim of
Six out of ten respondent firms (63%) say they plan to expand their apprenticeship training programmes in the future, with only 5% of firms having no plans to offer apprenticeships
come to fruition.
The voice of CBI should be heard though when judging the employability preparation work of education and they do put forward interesting suggestions. The recommendation to include creative subjects in the Ebacc would find much support among educators
while the shared attributes would be an authoritative resource to help define the goalposts for student employability. They also task their own members with work to increase the opportunities for work experience
while the call to increase the number of Careers Hubs is an achievable ask and a bellwether for the direction of travel. Also welcome are the recommendations for employers to pay regard to the careers advice needs of their own employees.
Looking at the wider value that annual reports such as this or the CEC State of the Nation series add to the understanding of the impact of CEIAG provision or our ability to judge the progression towards mutually desirable goals is another matter. Member surveys can be useful tools to discover where to prioritize support but if all we have to rely on are the CEC State of the Nation reports based on self reported Gatsby data from schools keen to promote their work and the CBI annual surveys from business also keen to promote their community impact then there the risk is of two distinct, uncommunicative bubbles emerging. While these two stakeholders must work in collaboration and as allies sometimes it would be nice if this environment of partnership spurred a challenge or two to overly enthusiastic claims.