CEIAG Policy

The Careers Leader Handbook review

clhcover2

Whenever something new in education begins, be it a new policy or teaching approach, there is always the risk that soon enough will come bandwagon jumping books, resources and expert training gurus all preaching the gospel of the new.

Now that the requirement for all schools and colleges to have a named member of staff as a Careers Leader is in place, there has been training advertised, resources up for grabs and now a shiny new publication, “The Careers Leader Handbook: How to create an outstanding careers programme for your school or college” is just a click away from your Amazon basket.

The Handbook though comes with pedigree as Tristram Hooley and David Andrews (who I’m sure many readers of this blog will have met, been trained by or learnt a lot from at conferences along their professional CEIAG journey) both have a huge background and experience in CEIAG theory, policy and practice so readers should know that they are in good hands.

The experience and depth of policy knowledge of the pair is apparent throughout the book. Each section is enriched by the concise explanations of the wider context of why the suggested model or practice should be attempted and the focus on the positive outcomes for young people that could be achieved. The research and evidence background supporting provision is covered but always in a way that distills down the main points so readers come away with practical applications to work with young people.

Sections

The Handbook is split into sections with Section 2 devoted to each of the eight Gatsby Benchmarks, Section 3 looking at the role of a Careers Leader and Section 4 discussing the need for continuous improvement and learning in the future.

Looking at each Benchmark individually may seem like an obvious structure but it really does lend itself to concisely offering examples of provision that fits and understanding how all that provision can link together. The “Nutshell” recaps at the end of each chapter bullet point the key strands within the chapter and mean that you take away the clear messages.

The use of invented case studies also has benefits as most readers would see reflections of their own establishments via the stories of Dunchester Progress Academy & Vanchester College.

The grounded experience of the writers in real schools is apparent in the realistic examples of offering Careers through PHSE or drop down days on page 67. The accurate representation of how schools and colleges actually run continues in Section 3: The role of the Careers Leader (page 131) when describing the different models of staffing CEIAG in schools. Without rehashing the debate on the flexibility of the defined job of a Careers Leader, the detail on the expectations and responsibilities associated with the role would leave any reader in no doubt regarding the seniority required to properly fulfill the remit.

Elsewhere Chapters 2.7 Experiences of HE, FE and work based training & 2.8 Personal Guidance are excellent on not just on the aims of those aspects of CEIAG but also on the challenges and barriers to overcome to build quality provision in these areas. The Chapters tackle head-on the, sometimes difficult, conversations Careers Leaders need to have with colleagues and superiors to ensure that impartial and timely provision for pupils is in place.

Criticisms

Any worthwhile review provides a bit of balance. To do that for the Careers Leader Handbook I’m going to have to include some extremely pedantry things such as the misspelling of Janet Colledge’s (@careersdefender) surname on page 177 and the reference to the College version of the DfE Careers Guidance being “Statutory” on page 23 (it’s not, it’s DfE guidance overseen by Ofsted with the threat to remove ESFA funding if non compliance is discovered so it’s power is not derived from the Statute book as the list of Statutory duties for schools is).

I personally wouldn’t have included Grammar school examples of CEIAG programmes as best practice (page 26) for the same reasons as I criticised the CEC for including them in their publications but The Careers Leader Handbook does have a different remit and it is good to show that great CEIAG can be built in any type of school.

A more obvious issue is the uneasy relationship the book has with funding throughout. The need for money to be available to fund all of the suggested provision is not treated as a unmentionable elephant in the room, far from it, the scale of what Careers Leaders should be asking for from their Headteachers is spelled out clearly particularly in the chapters discussing personal guidance and Section 3 includes a whole passages on budgeting and resourcing. A strategic aim of the book seems to be to empower Careers Leaders to demand more from their Senior Leaders and budget holders and this is to be applauded but readers will still read some passages with a wry smile. On page 152 the line “A budget begins as a prediction of what is likely to happen over a particular period” would spark a hollow laugh from those Headteachers setting deficit budgets across the country. The treatment of evaluation also has a slightly less than real world tone to it. Even the pitiful amount of public money that school CEIAG departments are given still comes with the responsibility to report on the impact of that funding. So the advice to Careers Leaders when evaluating to

don’t ask: Does our programme have an impact? Do ask: Does providing students with labour market information result in them having broader ideas about possible careers?”

is not couched in the necessity of a Headteacher proritising funding. They need to know what has impact on their learners to decide which provision to direct their funds towards instead all of the other provision they could choose to fund. It seems that how a researcher would approach evaluation of provision and how practitioner must are two different strategies. Overall, the uneasy feeling comes from the assumption that this funding will be given. I understand that this is almost an implicit necessity (you could hardly have a “Section 5: What to do if your school doesn’t have a pot to pee in” then followed by 15 blank pages and a shrug gif) but it still leads to some slightly eyebrow raising moments.

Is it worth my (school’s) cash?

Of course, because it’s extremely interesting, knowledgeable and well written. Anyone currently offering CEIAG provision in schools or a sole trading Careers Adviser looking to work in schools should read it. FE and HE Careers practitioners should read it to understand just how far CEIAG policy and practice have come in the last few years. Policy makers looking at just what they are requiring of schools should read it. It complements and brings greater depth to the free resources which are linked to on page 127 from the CEC and has much potential for dipping back into to remind any Careers Leader of the purpose and possibility their work. This is not a resource to read and file away on undusted office shelf, this book should be a core component of any Career Leaders office desk ready to grab and consult throughout the journey in building your CEIAG programme.

Advertisements

The calls for a “UCAS – Apprenticeships” portal

Over the years I have been keeping up to date with CEIAG policy and news, a recurring recommendation in Careers reports and speeches has been that Government should establish or encourage a UCAS style portal (let’s call it AAS – Apprenticeship Application Service) through which young people (or anyone I assume) could apply for an Apprenticeship vacancy. It’s promoters believe that this will encourage more young people to apply for and gain apprenticeships and it has resurfaced in the recent Education Select Committee report “The apprenticeships ladder of opportunity: quality not quantity

We recommend that the Government introduces a proper UCAS-style portal for
technical education to simplify the application process and encourage progression to
further training at higher levels. (Paragraph 89)

It has also been raised by Gerald Kelly & Partners in their report “Not for them: Why aren’t teenagers applying for apprenticeships?” which surveyed young people to find that

While almost two-thirds (63%) say if they could apply for apprenticeships using an UCAS-style format they would

While the Social Mobility Commission under Alan Milburn called for

a UCAS-style body to give young people better information about which apprenticeships are available and what career prospects they could lead to

Vocational and Technical education supporters such as the Edge Foundation also promote

 A well designed portal could explain each option in detail and give advice on how and where to apply. The portal would also make signing up for apprenticeships easier and more managed, as this can currently be a lengthy process and students taking GCSEs already have a lot to focus on.

and opinion pieces have called for a “one stop shop” website to be designed.

UCAS is a monopoly service but it does gain buy-in and brand reach beyond education because it offers a consistency of service year on year. The dates of the application cycle are clearly predetermined and the format of a learners application set, no matter whether the learner is applying to the highest tariff Russell Group Universities or a Foundation Degree at the local FE College; the application form is the same. The institutions in receipt of these applications may also add their own requirements post application form submission before making an offer decision (such as an interview or portfolio assessment) but those institutions all still use that initial form and stick to communal deadlines. The application deadline for Oxbridge, Veterinary, Dentistry & Medicine may be sooner than the main application deadline but, within those categories, there is still agreement across all of the institutions offering those courses on a common deadline.

Would a UCAS style portal for Apprenticeships achieve the same goals and how would it be different to the already established “Find An Apprenticeship?”

  1. Timing and deadlines

Employers can hire apprenticeships throughout the year

apprenticeship starts sept 2018

so there isn’t much agreement on common deadlines. You can see from the graph that the trends do show an increase in starts at the end and beginning of the academic year as (mostly larger) employers have moved their recruitment cycles to capture school and college leavers and also start the off the job training component of the apprenticeship in line with the academic year yet a common deadline is still nowhere to be seen. Whereas now UCAS applicants are clear on the common deadline and Advisers are able to structure application advice towards that deadline the proposals of any AAS system do not seem to envisage that employers could only advertise apprenticeship vacancies in certain periods of the year so this would mean that individual employer deadlines would still apply. As the 2016 Employer Perspectives Survey (p 113) shows that around 18% of all UK institutions offer apprenticeships so this would still mean a multitude of deadlines to hit and advisers to be aware of.

2. Employer control over applications

Much of the Government rhetoric over the reform of the Apprenticeship system through the introduction of standards and the levy has been built around the theme of placing employers “at the heart” of apprenticeship training. Presumably this also includes allowing employers to determine their own apprenticeship recruitment processes. Currently employers can list their apprenticeship vacancies on the “Find An Apprenticeship” site (plus their own sites or third-party sites such as “Get My First Job“) and support and advice is offered on how to recruit, but the employer remains in charge of the process. Sometimes an employer will choose to use the more generic application questions and form contained within the Find An Apprenticeship site

Such as this mock application

or require applicants to apply through their own website

site management apprenticeship

This seems to be a flexibility required by employers. The recruitment process an SME will need to source a suitable applicant for a Level 2 vacancy will be very different to the procedure a multinational corporation will undertake on their annual recruitment of a multitude of apprenticeship standards at higher levels. So forcing a common application form onto all employers offering apprenticeships also seems beyond the reach of an AAS.

3. Age of applicants & references

Higher Education applicants of all ages use UCAS to apply but it would fair to say that the majority of HE starters come from applicants who are of a school or college leaving age.

ucas stats

This is not true of those starting apprenticeships

apprenticeship starts

where the majority of current starters from the applicant pool would not be in education to receive support from an Adviser. Of course the very point of the AAS would be to increase the number of younger applicants but that site would have to be one that would accommodate and be user-friendly for applicants of all ages, whether in education or not.

4. Numbers of applicants

All of the reports suggesting a AAS do so in the commendable hope that it would increase the number of young apply for and so starting apprenticeships. With its title, the Gerald Kelly report is particularly flagrant in its acceptance that young people aren’t applying for apprenticeships. This is strange, as I’ve posted about previously, the DfE no longer publishes the data showing apprenticeship applicants by age, only starts. Misappropriating the number of Apprenticeship starts by age as an indicator of the number of applications by age is not acknowledging the historic data we do have which showed that young already apply for apprenticeships in far greater numbers than the number of vacancies posted. For as AAS portal to be truly warranted, the data on applications by age needs to be regularly shared by the DfE.

5. Differences between Find An Apprenticeship

In any of the reports linked, AAS recommendations come seemingly without reference to the Find An Apprenticeship website which already exists or, if they do acknowledge it, they are unclear about what differences the proposed UCAS style Apprenticeships portal would have. Find An Apprenticeship already allows people to search on a common site for all apprenticeships, research opportunities laid out in a standard format and, in some cases, complete an application through the same site. As I have shown, just establishing a new portal with aspirations to be more like UCAS fails to acknowledge or offer solutions to the fundamental differences between the Apprenticeship and Higher Education processes and routes which would leave any new portal looking and performing much the way as the current Find An Apprenticeship already does.

An AAS portal also offers a suggested quick fix which fails to address the central issue. The Gatsby Benchmarks have shown us what works in CEIAG provision. This is time and cost intensive provision as Apprentices themselves acknowledge

and Gatsby evidenced but it is that support that would really enable young people in greater numbers to strive for and successfully secure Apprenticeships.

 

 

The potential split between College and School Careers Leaders

September will see a change for schools and they “appoint” a Careers Leader as mandated by the Careers Strategy and the Guidance  documents for Schools and Colleges. What structures or staffing models schools will adopt (or just rename) to meet this will vary widely both because the guidance allows them to

careers leaders4

and because the funding squeeze will dictate that they will utilise the staff at their disposal.

For Colleges the guidance is tighter in the recommended structures to follow

careers leaders5

The specificity of requiring a Vice Principal or Director to take on the role does make sense in a College context. They are usually larger organisations both in terms of learners requiring provision and members of staff to work with and sites to cover so most providers will employ a team with a Careers/Employability focus line-managed through their Student Services areas. Combined with the more vocational nature of the teaching & qualification offer (teachers will have their own industry expertise to also offer IAG as part of the main qualification) placing the role at a strategic level puts the onus on the institution to achieve the cross College buy-in sought by the CEC to build a joined up Careers programme rather than a standalone service that does not collaborate throughout the teaching areas. At this scale, this isn’t a one person job so the delivery and the leadership have to be split.

The more options available in the School guidance will lead to many non teaching, non Senior Leaders being assigned the “Careers Leader” or a version of option 1 in the image above. If these roles are rebadged Careers Co-ordinator or Careers Adviser position line-managed by a member of Senior Leadership or the Head Teacher then in these cases the Careers Leader is “Leader” in name only. The strategic oversight and direction of the Careers provision at the school will be lead by the member of staff on the Senior Leadership team line managing the practitioner doing the delivery. It is they who will feed into working groups across the school (curriculum, data, behaviour etc) as they will have more areas of responsibility and line-management duties for the delivery staff in those areas.

The guidance document acknowledges the possible downsides from this option

if senior leadership support is not in place, middle Careers Leaders can struggle to drive school-level change and successfully fulfill the coordination tasks which are part of the role.

and offers two case studies, one of which explains the link from the delivery practitioner to Senior Leadership

Cathy is not a trained teacher and whilst not formally designated as a middle leader, is effectively treated as one. For example, her line manager is the deputy head with whom she meets regularly.

and one that doesn’t

Leyla was responsible for all aspects of careers across the school, including contracts with external careers providers. The post was organised as a middle leader position and Leyla combined her role as Careers Leader with responsibilities for the business department and vocational education.

without explaining the conundrum of proposing the Leader as a “Senior” role whilst then offering examples of structures where it isn’t.

Allowing schools to farm off the “Careers Leader” job title onto staff not at a Senior enough level to inject and sustain a culture change throughout the school is not the hoped for consequence of implementing the Career Leaders policy. Before the Careers Strategy and CEC even existed, some schools had already reacted to the loss of Connexions by employing a non teaching member of staff to deliver their Careers provision. The lever the CEC is trying to pull through the establishment of the Careers Leader role and the accompanying guidance is to place CEIAG further up the food chain and closer to the heart of school decision-making and planning.

Careers Leaders are responsible and accountable for the delivery of their school’s programme of career advice and guidance. It is a senior role that requires the person doing it to have a clear overview of the school’s careers provision

This is what schools choosing Option 2 will  be attempting to achieve but will certainly have to invest in delivery practitioners for their Careers provision to match their ambition whilst also refraining from allocating the title to a Senior Leader with a multitude of other strands to manage. The possible pitfalls of this Option are under-funding and under-staffing.

Multi-Academy Trusts choosing to implement Option 3 would also have to invest in delivery staff to offer provision across sites but should have their own Careers Team line-management structure.

Schools choosing the Option 1 structure will therefore deviate from Colleges and other schools in that they will be attempting to combine the roles of strategy and delivery into one role (that may or may not have Senior Leader support). Those named Leaders in a combined strategy/delivery role without Senior Leader support will find the job the hardest of all while those in a delivery role reporting to a member of SLT are the Leaders in name only described above. The separation of strategy and delivery roles encourages a team model and so is able to push the responsibility of CEIAG higher up the school staffing structure and so closer to the core strategy decisions.

In a previous post on this subject I’ve agreed with the CDI that the naming of a Careers Leader is not something to become too hung up on as

It matters less whether the tasks are undertaken by one member of staff or several, or whether the post is filled by a member of the teaching or non-teaching staff, and more that all the tasks are clearly assigned and that the personnel allocated the role(s) are enabled and supported to fulfil their responsibilities effectively

which still holds true as ultimately it is the outcomes for students which should determine the success of structures. What I am clearer on now though is that there are potential dangers in using a title that means different things in different providers and for financially hard pressed schools, the lure of changing a job title without reflecting on the purpose or remit of that role.

College guidance

https://www.careersandenterprise.co.uk/sites/default/files/uploaded/careers_leaders_in_colleges.pdf

School guidance

https://www.careersandenterprise.co.uk/sites/default/files/uploaded/understanding-careers-leader-role-careers-enterprise.pdf

 

 

 

Our Further Education Careers Programme Statement

Our College Group’s Careers Programme Statement has now gone up on the websites across the Group.

You can find it on our two general Further Education College sites:

https://www.tresham.ac.uk/student-support/careers-advice/

https://www.bedford.ac.uk/student-support/careers-advice

Our Sixth Form College site

https://www.bedfordsixthform.ac.uk/student-life/careers-advice

and our dedicated Student Services site

http://www.yourspaceonline.net/jobs-and-careers

Included as a requirement for September 2018 in the Careers Guidance for Further Education & Sixth Form Colleges published in February, this is a fairly straightforward task to fulfill but adds another level of public accountability to offering CEIAG in post 16 providers and would be considered as a fundamental aspect of meeting Gatsby benchmark 1: A Stable Careers Programme.

fe careers guidance

Although, in this age of College Groups and Post 16 mergers, writing a document that is both accessible for the public yet also covers enough detail of all of the aspects of the service is tricky. Our first attempt is below and I’d welcome any feedback or examples from other Post 16 providers ready for when we review it next year.

Live-streaming Employer Engagement activities

The rise of the student focused webinar

There are plenty of aspects of a comprehensive school/college CEIAG offer that can provide a challenge of budget, planning and delivery. Any Careers Leader will encounter difficulties to overcome to meet any of the Gatsby Benchmarks but the one that requires the greatest collaboration, outreach and organisation is perhaps Benchmark 5 “Encounters with Employers and Employees”. Finding willing volunteers from worlds of work that have some enticement for your learners and those who are able to interact positively with young people takes time, finding a suitable time slot around curriculum needs and their own commitments takes patience and negotiation and helping the learners place the information into context takes skill and follow-up. From the employer’s side there is also much to overcome, which of the multitude of organisations do they work with to co-ordinate their education outreach, how can they reach the gatekeeper in the school/college, how can they allocate precious staff time away from their roles for this sort of activity?

It seems that one of the growing solutions to help solve these complications is the use of live streaming employer engagement programmes. A kind of webinar for pupils, these offer lots of potential benefits for both employers and CEIAG practitioners and a more immediate and collective experience than CEIAG Vloggers.

For a number of years The Big Assembly has been a center point of National Apprenticeships Week and offers an interactive broadcast for schools to join. It’s main selling point is the communal aspect of the event, even though a teacher could be showing it on a whiteboard to a single tutor group, that group of students would be made to feel part of a much bigger event with pupils all over the country all joining in at that moment.

The Webinar itself is a series of short vox-pop type interviews of employees across different sectors recounting their apprenticeship journey interspersed with some awful voice over sections in which someone appears to be struggling with a bad quality phone line to announce various prize draw winners. At over 40 minutes, this would test the attention span of both of its target audience and the poor teacher supervising a group watching it. It is still available (last years version above) on the Workpays YouTube channel but as a historic resource it offers no real benefits for practitioners to go back to after the event to reuse.

Another offering is the WOW Show. This is a joint enterprise between the Edge Foundation, City & Guilds, the B&CE Charitable Trust and the RSA Academies Trust and offers a similar type of broadcast format with sharp insights into different areas of work with, this time, a studio based presenter tying things up. This seems a much more professionally produced effort even if the presenting style is (to my extremely middle-aged eyes) far too Blue Peter and not enough Alfie Deyes to really appeal to younger viewers. The “audience” asking question segments are also a good idea in practice but in reality turn into the children struggling to keep a straight face for long enough to actually get an audible question out and also show the limitations of generic advice in return.

The RSA Academies Trust have also provided a number of resources for teachers to use with their classes either in preparation before watching the programme or to link to their subject in the curriculum. A well prepared teacher (or, to put it another way, a teacher well prepared by their Careers Leader colleague) could use the WOW Show broadcast as they would any other video resource. This significantly reduces the communal aspect of the broadcast, turning it into just another resource to use as teachers see fit. This places the WOW Show offer as much closer to other video based CEIAG resources such as icould or Careersbox. This diminishes the value of the resource as the variety of careers and labour market information available through icould for example just isn’t present to aid guidance and context for learners.

An employment sector also utilising this technology to connect with students is the Construction sector through their Construction Live events. It’s positive that a sector is showing initiative to connect with education and especially a sector that has struggled to provide other connecting opportunities such as work experience and employer visits in the past. Here a Chat facility is the main method for providing interaction with the audience.

Evidence

This is a fairly new trend in CEIAG embracing fairly new technology so research of impact on students seems limited but the Careers & Enterprise Company’s “What Works” series does include a publication on Careers websites which includes those sites utilising videos for CEIAG learning. The evidence relatable to live streams concludes that

Information-based career websites need to exist in the context of a wider offline
careers support program

to have the most impact but also that online support that facilitates communication

can lead to positive outcomes such as gains in career decidedness and self-knowledge, gains in satisfaction with future career prospects, and in career exploration behaviours.

This explains how important the interactive nature of CEIAG live streams and follow up from CEIAG staff in the educational setting are to their success.

To counter those positive findings is evidence from wider technology in Education studies

Which seems to suggest that having delivery from a practitioner in the room helps students attainment rather than experiencing the delivery remotely either at the same time or later. Could this be relatable to CEIAG provision by suggesting that employers ineraction with young people has more value if those employers are in the room?

Convenience or Impact

For employers looking to efficiently use their staff for educational outreach work, CEIAG live streams seem like a win-win provision to be involved with. For a short amount of commitment it is possible to reach many more learners than, for example, a team of employees would at a school careers fair. For schools, also time pressed and perhaps struggling to make links with employers from particular career areas, they also offer convenience and a quick win for providing evidence that they are offering CEIAG activities. The value of such provision though is still to be determined but the available evidence seems to suggest that what value it offers relies heavily on follow-up work in the school and the quality of interaction offered during the broadcast.

 

 

The CEC in front of the Education Select Committee May 2018 – not the one sided thrashing you were led to believe

Link to the Education Select Committee Video here:

https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/90b1eb8a-1eca-40c2-8916-0956c5cce7a0

So far in its existence (at least to those of us in the Careers community that don’t work for it) it seemed that the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) was the golden child, arrived here to save careers work for young people in England. Central funding wise, they essentially are the only show in town as they scale up their pilot work and their communications, PR and branding have been a fresh breeze of modern professionalism in a sector that (if I may) has always been behind the curve in shaping its own public perception. This period of cosy positivity ended though with a bruising session for the CEC in front of Robert Halfon and his Education Select Committee. The trade press reported the session in typical combative framing and the CEC did itself no favourites with a poorly judged call for social media support afterwards.

The Select Committee (well the 7 present of the 11 members) seemed aghast at a number of areas of the CEC’s work and track-record

  • that the CEC had spent £900,000 on research publications which were monies that had not been spent on the front line
  • that the CEC was not yet able to report on the destinations impact of the provision that their work had funded
  • that their board meeting minutes were not made public
  • that the long mooted Enterprise Passport had been put “on hold” despite it being one of the three main strands of the CEC’s original remit
  • that funding pots supposedly dedicated to providing provision for disadvantaged areas were not being totally allocated to those areas
  • paying Enterprise Co-ordinators and other central, senior roles significant salaries above comparable school based roles

Some of these criticisms hold an element of truth but what was also apparent from the session was (yet again) just how woefully ignorant of the Careers landscape (and by extension the work of the CEC) the MPs were.

Of course, it is only fair for MP’s to ask for the upmost transparency and compliance when investigating the value gained for the spending for tax payers money and beginning to focus on the actual impact (rather than merely the quantity) of provision would have been something you might have read about on this blog back in July 2017. Funding from Government comes with strings attached, it must be accounted for so taking the CEC to task for not being clear on the destination data of the pupils receiving CEIAG provision funded by the CEC is to be expected. What was not expected was just how difficult it was for the MPs to grasp that this destination data was;

a) only part of the impact feedback with evaluations and further social mobility measures, employer feedback, skill shortage data etc also to be taken into account

b) not going to be ready yet as many of the young recipients of CEC funded provision were probably still in school at this moment – Mr Halfon seemed unable to comprehend this fairly simple point

and

c) extremely difficult to collect and place comparative value on as the inputs (the type of CEIAG provision) are varied and delivered by a multitude of different providers funded by the CEC

It was also astonishing to see Emma Hardy, the MP for Hull West, at one moment criticize the CEC for not publishing pupil level destination data to show the impact of their work only then to also harangue them for not funding grassroots organisations such as National Careers Week who also do not publish or collect pupil level destination data. NCW are a fine organisation but they are not providers of provision, they are a banner organisation whose launch events and social media exposure allow others to brand their own work. Their own reporting reflects this with the number of tweets and resource downloads indicating a successful impact rather than the actual outcomes of young people. Moments such as this highlight a complete lack of mastery of the Select Committee brief from some of the Members and this was only to continue throughout the session.

Trudy Harrison was the most clueless of the bunch, at times advocating that the CEC should only be judged on the hugely reductive measure of rising or falling youth unemployment in an area in which they are funding provision and showing her utter unpreparedness for the session by repeatedly asking what a “Cold Spot” was. In the end I admired Claudia Harris’ restraint as the Member for Copeland asked for definitions, clarifications and to be sent information that was published on the CEC website back in October 2015 and forms a fundamental basis for all of the subsequent work of the organisation.

(I also enjoyed Lucy Powell noting that the advertised circa £80k CEC Director of Education role is “more than we get paid” considering that an MP’s current salary is very close at £77,379 and Mrs Powell also enjoys income from a number of rental properties according to the Register of MP’s Financial Interests)

Despite the general ignorance of the line of questioning some important points were raised. The fact that the Enterprise Passport is “on hold” to use Christine Hodgson‘s phrase is of note but it was more a pity that the MPs did not have the forensic insight to ask how much had been spent on this project to date. The figures for the amount of applications for funding the CEC received should also have caused a greater swell of interest. For the original £5m funding pot, they received over 10 times (£50m) worth of applications which just shows that there could be vastly more CEIAG work happening with young people if only the funding was there. Again, the MP’s did not pick up on this huge appetite for provision that is currently being unfilled.

As the session progressed, both Hodgson and Claudia Harris struggled gainfully and mostly unsuccessfully to overcome the MPs preordained views. At times, this was the fault of the two representatives of the CEC as they struggled to recall funding amounts or specific data that would’ve helped their push-back and appear more in charge of their remit. This was clearly apparent as they struggled to articulate the processes and structure of the biding and allocation of both the Personal Guidance funds and the Career Hubs monies. This was not helped by Robert Halfon confusing his brief over the remit of two distinct pots of money but also the failure of Harris to explain why biding processes had been designed with certain methodologies and if the £5m allocated for disadvantaged young people was definitively going to be spent on disadvantaged young people. The promises that current schemes (Compass and the 2019 publication of destination data of pupils involved with CEC funded activities) would soon bear fruit also failed to appease the Committee. The central point remains though, it is clearly fair for Select Committee’s to ask for clarity on expenditure and impact and the CEC, with their multitude of funding pots and provision schemes, certainly dropped the ball in explaining this coherently.

Equally though, dissatisfaction arose due to the fact that the roles of the CEC still seem undefined to those MPs who oversee them. Despite Hodgson’s appeals to the contrary that their DfE grant letter provides a clear remit, throughout the session the CEC was tasked by different Members with being a provider of CEIAG provision, an umbrella organisation channelling funding to organisations on the front-line and a research intensive body such as the Education Endowment Foundation only finding what does and doesn’t work (somehow despite their earlier criticisms of too high a research budget) or all of those things or even some mixture of those things.

Perhaps, through no fault of its own, by the time of its creation, the marketplace the CEC hopes to shelter under its umbrella and stakeholder’s perceptions of CEIAG provision had grown so distinct and varied that bringing all of the partner organisations and oversight bodies together will provide a much harder task than they imagined. It’s not that everybody isn’t yet singing from the same hymn sheet, it’s that, despite the huge research investment, the debate over which hymn sheet to use is still happening.

The CEC Implementation & Careers Hub Plans

When it finally came, the Careers Strategy placed a lot of emphasis on the work of the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) so far and even increased the scope of the organisations work in the future. Alongside the actual implementation responsibilities of schools, practitioners and other stakeholders, the CEC was tasked with a broader range of targets and policies beyond increasing employer engagement which had been it’s main remit up until now. These extra strands of provision for the CEC to coordinate show that the organisation is consolidating it’s position as the Government’s core organising force across careers policy for young people in England.

The Strategy set out that through to 2020 the CEC would oversee

  • schools and Colleges wider Careers provision across all of the Gatsby benchmarks
  • a £5m investment fund for careers provision for disadvantaged pupils
  • the collaborative discussion to define the Careers Leader role
  • the £4m funding pot for the training programme for around 500 Careers Leaders
  • to initiate and support 20 Careers Hubs across the country with another £5m pot of funding
  • Triple their “Cornerstone” employer contacts to 150
  • link every school and college with an Enterprise Adviser and boost the number of employer encounters to at least one a year from years 7 to 13

This will be a significant expansion both in responsibilities and the staffing needed to meet them for the CEC.

Soon (March 9th 2018) after the publication of the Strategy, the CEC responded with a (draft) Implementation Plan that set out how they would achieve and measure achievement of those policy actions. The draft plan states that

  • the £5m investment fund will be split with £2.5m directed towards increasing employer encounters and the other £2.5m invested into funding and testing personal guidance models
  • the £4m Careers Leader training funds will be open to schools who are members of the new Career Hubs but also not in Career Hubs

and also asked for submissions of feedback. The final version was released 9th April 2018 with a few cosmetic changes and some additional photographs but only the following substantive alterations to the text

Final version:

  • Acknowledges that Careers Hubs should not replicate local networks “Where other local structures are already established, we will look to engage these networks to avoid duplication and coordinate effort”
  • Allocates around £1000 central Hub fund per school for activities
  • Includes the need to collaborate with experts in STEM & SEND when learning from pilots
  • Includes the need to encompass existing quality measures in outcome research such as the Matrix Standard and Careers Quality Awards
  • promises the inclusion of the CDI Framework of Learning Outcomes when looking at an individuals outcomes when measuring impact

So whatever submissions were made only asked for or gained small-scale changes. We do know that Careers England submitted a response which I felt was measured in its welcoming tone for much of the plan but also asked the most pertinent question regarding whether the funding available is sufficient to meet the high aspirations of the Plan.

Careers Hubs

Alongside the Final Plan were published the details on the Career Hubs policy including the prospectus for interested collaborative groups to apply. A Careers Hub is essentially the CEC version of a middle tier now represented by Regional School Commissioners in the world of academy management. In 2014 the DfE realised that it could not possibly performance manage the huge number of academies in the English system from a central organisation so inserted a layer of middle tier accountability and guidance into a system not well designed to accommodate it. It seems that the CEC has learnt from this and, after first running the North East LEP pilot scheme, are building a structure to encourage growth in quality and accountability first rather than merely hoping sporadic support would see a coherent system flourish.

The plans for Hubs are ambitious. They require groups of schools (20-40) to collaborative together and with other local stakeholders to build each schools provision across the Gatsby benchmarks.

careershub1

They are ambitious as they require buy in from lots of stakeholders and providers who will be tempted by the organisational and (slight) funding support on offer but may also be tentative in their support as Hubs have the potential to overlap or replace local partnership and structures already in place. (Much like the Careers Leader role, the balance between adhering to centrally dictated structures and not trampling on locally founded solutions is not something found without willingness to change from practitioners) Meanwhile, organisers in locales without strong current networking structures or those providing services in deprived areas (outside of defined Opportunity Areas who have a separate process) will, I hope, be champing at the bit to put forward a proposal for a Careers Hub.

The fist hurdle to overcome for any Enterprise Co-ordinator or Council Skills Development Manager will be a challenging one though. The initial expression of interest deadline is 24th April 2018 and the Excel Eligibility checker reply document asks the respondent questions which refer to the commitment and capacity of all involved schools. An Organiser diligently completing this form could be sending and chasing replies from up to 40 schools within 11 working days and some will also have to contend with the fact that their schools will still be on Easter break until the 16th, leaving only 7 working days to collate responses. The truth will be that many of the initial interest submissions will be sent without consultation from all potential participants as Organisers will hope to consult and gain buy in from schools in the period until the 24th May 2018 deadline for the whole application form to be submitted. The FAQ (Appendix F) explains that Hub bids will be able to swap around up to 10% of named schools before the scheme starts so this allows some flex for Organisers unable to secure buy in from schools.

Employer Encounters Fund

The £2.5m fund for Employer Encounters will accessible to “some” schools in Careers Hubs through “virtual wallets” obtained through a separate bidding process for Hubs.  These encounters will be available to purchase from providers approved by the CEC. Local providers of employer engagement will be keenly awaiting the May publication of the CEC approved provider list.

Hub Leads

Each of the 20 Hubs will be supported by the CEC to recruit a Hub Lead on a salary of £40,000-£50,000 plus expenses. This adds a significant new role into the careers landscape and one that will have plenty of current Enterprise Co-ordinators scouring  the job description (Appendix C) and thinking that they already perform many of the duties listed.

Conclusion

The Hub proposals look very enticing and those involved with the policy over the next few academic years should be excited at the promises of support on offer from the CEC. The prospectus includes many references to those schools outside of Hubs who will still be able to access funding for Careers Leader training funds and other CEC services but not the Employer Encounters funding. As only “some” schools in Hubs will be allocated this, there is certainly the potential for schools to be in different speed lanes for the support with their Careers provision over the next few years. A school that is part of a Hub and meeting their commitments in the Hub Memorandum of Understanding while also receiving financial support for Careers Leader training, Employer Encounter funding and the other guidance and support from the CEC and their Enterprise Co-ordinators would be in a very different position to a school without those advantages. If this offer is open in your area, take it up, and if your Council Lead or Enterprise Co-ordinator hasn’t submitted a bid, be asking them why not. There might well be good reasons for not wanting to be involved (a belief in established local networks for example), but for cash and resource starved CEIAG practitioners wanting to offer quality provision in their school, being part of a Careers Hub trial certainly looks like a rocket boost to being to achieve that.