career guidance

Dot Joiner

 

If we’re being honest, CEIAG conferences can be a real mixed bag. Some of the events that I have attended over the years have enthused and enlightened me and helped formulate the targets I then attempted to achieve over the subsequent period. Unfortunately, other events rely too heavily on unstructured “networking” time, outsource seminars to speakers without checking quality and run panels which are glorified puff spaces for participants to plug the work of their employer. The lack of funding available for CPD and the pressure to keep services running at practitioner’s home sites also means that the events colleagues do get out to attend need to be of a high quality.

With this in mind I attended the Careers & Enterprise Company 2nd Annual “Joining The Dots” Conference this month. Held in Sheffield at the English Institute for Sport, over 750 delegates attended for a day of speeches and breakout sessions while the Company then continued into Day 2 with meetings for their Headteacher advisory group and an awards ceremony.

Annual conferences such this do have a slightly different remit to the news sharing and highlighting of innovative practice that many CPD events do. Annual conferences are usually more to rally the troops and build a positive collective feeling around the work of the organisation. “Joining the Dots” definitely seemed to aim for the second of those remits with a morning session led by both the Chair, Christine Hodgson and the CEO, Claudia Harris updating the audience on the progress of the CEC in building its infrastructure of personnel and networks. Both speakers were disappointingly light though on the actual impact of these new structures the CEC is building but more on that later. Delegates were then treated to the personal story of British Olympian Beth Tweddle which, while interesting, to me felt out-of-place and stuck out as a grasp for celebrity endorsement. Plenty of other delegates seemed to enjoy it though. Tweddle is also a Patron of the STEM based Your Life campaign so does have links to this area.

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MC’d by Oli Barrett the session then moved quickly onto a Q&A with Claudia Harris and Carl Harris (Association of School & College Leavers) and Josh Hardie (CBI). The discussion moved through the broad themes around the interaction between employers and education with positive and conciliatory noises from both participants. It was noticeable though that, in one answer, Josh Hardie said that, “over 80% of businesses work with schools” which was not challenged by the other participants. This is a statistic from the CBI’s own annual Education & Skills Survey which is not consistent with findings from other research in this area as it claims a much higher rate of business involvement with education than others. The CEC has also looked at this in its “Cold Spots” report and if the organisation truly wishes to position itself on a standing of evidence based work, then it needs to balance out misinformation when it encounters it.

Then it was time for a lunch break. During this period delegates could browse a good range of exhibitors with products and services to offer in the CEIAG field.

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The afternoon moved into two breakout sessions with a range of titles that looked at CEIAG Mentoring, offering provision for SEND pupils and updates on the forthcoming Enterprise Passport. I opted for “Effective Employer Engagement in Further Education” and found the panel full of useful advice regarding the role of Enterprise Advisers and FE. Approaching employer engagement is different in a FE College compared to a secondary school and the ways other Colleges had used Advisers as conduits to wider networks was thought-provoking.

My second session was back in the main hall for the “Building Capacity for Careers Leadership is Schools” which, while interesting, I later regretted not attending “Virtual Employer Encounters” as, the more I thought about this, the more concerned I became. On the face of things, it would seem like an easy win for the CEC, using the information from their Cold Spots report, to then offer the technology links for employers to offer virtual provision for young people in those regions. This type of provision though has its failings and it would also struggle to meet the Company’s own conclusions in its “Moments of Choice” report about the need for personalization for young people.

The day then finished with Lord Young offering an update on the plans for a national Enterprise Passport for young people to be able to evidence their achievements, skills and experiences outside of their usual qualification certificates.

Overall, I felt that the event was very ‘input’ orientated with a lack of substantive consideration for the outcomes the CEC is trying to achieve. Celebrating the employment of Enterprise Co-ordinators, the growth of the Enterprise Adviser network and the funding of localised CEIAG projects is worthwhile but these are structures, not the results. At it’s launch the outcomes of the CEC were to be judged as part of the wider performance management of the Post 19 education and skills sector.  But this was under the 2010-2015 Coalition Government and much water has passed under the political bridge since then. Judgement on the impact of the CEC should be made against control groups or counterfactual analysis. Be it an improvement in employers satisfaction with the employability skills of young people (although the uncertainty over who will carry the skills survey once the duty of the now defunct UKCES won’t help that), lowering the number of NEET young people in the CEC’s designated “cold spot” areas or tracking the destination data of leavers from schools who meet the Gatsby benchmarks (via the Compass benchmarking tool) or who have been involved in the Mentoring scheme, the CEC has to show impact of its spending of public money. With this being it’s 2nd Annual conference, I was hoping for more detail of this area but, perhaps, the Company are mindful of the election and the impact this will have on the long-delayed Careers Strategy which may define these criteria.

(Photos from the CEC facebook page)

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According the CEC’s literature, young people have now so conclusively lost the demographic battle, after the General Election they will all be put into a rocket and blasted off into space

 

The nudge, nudge future of CEIAG

One of the most substantial and thought-provoking pieces of work on Careers published in the last year was the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) commissioned report “Moments of Choice” which I looked at here.

The report was written by the Behavioural Insights Team and it gave the CEC plenty of conclusions on which to plan their own future work

We will highlight key messages, alerting schools and colleges to the types of conversations that young people should be having and when they should be having them; the types of information they should consider in those conversations; the mistakes that young people typically make and, perhaps most importantly of all, the things that they do not need to worry about.

on how young people wanted to consume Careers IAG

moments of choice1

and how the CEC would go about trying to achieve that

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In the past weeks two projects have come to light which show the way that this future Careers IAG apparatus might work in practice.

First was another Insights Team piece of research which used a three year randomised controlled trial to find 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. This kind of cost-effective intervention (printing and posting some mail merge letters are a lot cheaper than Careers Advisers) can be highly targeted using not only GCSE attainment data but also parental income data now available.

This type of intervention is small-scale when compared to Careers choice help for all young people outlined by the CEC above but we can see how such interventions could be scalable yet still retain an element of personalisation to the message so desired by the young people themselves as well as using technology to more be responsive to users needs.

An example of how this type of personalised messaging system could be used to aid Careers decisions can found in another Behaviour Insights Team project called Promptable.

Aimed at FE students, Promptable uses text messages to text students and nominated “Study Supporters” weekly with reminders and prompt discussions about revision and tutor feedback in the build up to exams. The Team found that students who took part in the Promptable trials boosted their College attendance and exam performance.

Imagine a similar system designed for secondary school age young people and nominated “Supporters” discussing Careers choices at appropriate landmarks. Schools or Colleges ask students to sign up to the site, the school has uploaded their own timeline for PHSE or Careers lessons, for Key Stage 4 choices, for specific visits, talks or careers fairs, for Key Stage 5 choices, for Higher Education plans, links to CEIAG online resources etc etc and then the site sends prompting texts to students and “Supporters” to discuss these milestones or enable Supporters to remind students to attend events. As with Promptable, you could even have the student complete a short questionnaire on sign up outlining areas of interest which they can tailor by sending code texts back (“to out of messages about events please text EVENTS STOP back to this number”) which would also notify the Supporter so a discussion could be had (“actually I think it would be good if you did go to that Apprenticeship Information Evening”).

This kind of interaction fulfills all of the requirements of an easily accessible, horizon broadening intervention method that also encourages personalised face to face discussions. CEIAG event notification and student tracking systems are already on the market through products such as Grofar but this system has the added impetus (or nudge) method of the Supporter, known to the student and offering  chance for discussion. Some in the CEIAG community would ask where in this system does the CEIAG professional fit in? As the local architect of the educational establishment’s profile on the main website, the organiser of the provision, the record keeper of attendance and the option of face to face guidance as another method of provision to be offered to the student body but most of all, as the face of encouraging student sign up to the system would be my proposal.

Large scale systems face a balance between creating systems that work for the majority yet be flexible enough to impact the individual. The communication method of results of systems like Promptable and the targeted use of household data to tailor messages to young people such as the “Encouraging people into University” report could show the way on how this is feasible in CEIAG.

The CEC needs more than PR to judge it’s progress

The DfE plan to address shortcomings in school CEIAG provision rests heavily upon the success of the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC). The work of the CEC is becoming more diversified as it begins to fund other activities beyond it’s original thread of recruiting and organising a nationwide army of Enterprise Advisers corralled by a smaller squadron of Enterprise Coordinators to work with educational institutions. This has required a recruitment drive which, the CEC would say, has gone amazingly well

but, anecdotally,

has struggled to gain traction across the sector.

The number of Enterprise Advisers working with the CEC has been regularly mentioned in their PR communications.

In June 2016, the CEC released their first annual report “Joining the Dots” which stated

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Then, in October 2016, a Government response to a joint Education & Business committee report stated that the CEC had

already appointed 78 coordinators and almost 1200 advisers

and that

Over 700 schools and colleges (in 37 out of 38 Local Enterprise Partnership areas in England) have been helped to develop better careers and enterprise programmes for their pupils

 

By November 2016, this had grown to “more than 1300.”

We have recruited more than 1,300 Enterprise Advisers

In January 2017, the numbers touted were

A third of schools and colleges in the country are currently matched with an Enterprise Adviser – senior business volunteers connecting more than 1,300 schools and colleges

Last week the CEC released another press statement to celebrate the news that the number of Enterprise Advisers had grown

More than 1,300 senior employers from small family-owned firms to global corporations are working with headteachers across the country to help shape career programmes and employer engagement plans since the Company started operations just over 18-months ago.

and that this meant

that the government-backed Company has gone from a standing start to pairing business volunteers with almost half of all secondary schools and colleges in England with a combined population of more than 1.3million students.

which sounds very impressive but is ensconced in the language of public relations. “More than 1,300 senior employers,” “more than 1.3 million students” which isn’t very specific when reporting outcomes of public expenditure.

The statistic there regarding Enterprise Advisers is doubly vague as it refers to “employers” (rather than the November 2016 update which mentions Advisers) which could include (multiple) examples of more than one employee from the same employer offering to volunteer. This would mean that the number of actual Advisers could be a lot more than 1300 yet this figure was also used to refer to the number of Advisers by the CEC in March 2017

Which begs the question, just how many Advisers have the CEC recruited?

This possible figure is also confused by the statement “almost half of all secondary schools and colleges in England” are now matched with Advisers.

In September 2016 there were 325 Colleges in England.

The DfE 2016 annual statistics bulletin shows there are 3401 Secondary schools in England.

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So that’s a total of 3726.

50% = 1863 which is a little more than 1300 which is described as “nearly half.”

If we speculate that the number of actual Enterprise Advisers is 1350 that would equal 36% of schools and colleges in England are matched with an Adviser which is closer to the “third” mentioned in the January 2017 press notice.

This guesswork is just that, guesswork. If the CEC publishes its annual report in June again, it will be a few months until a clear figure is published, with only confusing and contradictory press notices to rely upon.

The CEC is (currently) a publicly funded organisation with a number of different funding announcements comprising its total cash injection

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Earlier this week a much larger pot of Government funding received scrutiny from the Public Accounts Committee when they looked at the National Citizenship Service (NCS) and concluded that it was failing to meet recruitment targets, failing to disclose directors salaries, not providing value for money and failing to determine outcomes for young people for the high level of public investment received. The actual report is forensic. While dealing with a much smaller funding pot to the NCS, the CEC should also receive this sort of scrutiny.

Some kind of bliss – on timing for Careers reports

Today saw (yet another) report on Careers work in school added to the library of publications released on the matter. The sub-Committee on Education, Skills & the Economy published a report on the findings of it’s inquiry into the state of CEIAG in schools.  The recommendations and conclusions within retread old ground of those previously recommended by Education Select Committees and takes a lot of direction from the report du jour, the Gatsby Foundation report on Careers.

Some of those detailed recommendations make sense, for example:

We invite the Government, in its response, to set out a comprehensive plan for improving destination data, including the timescales for doing so. This plan should include steps to make the data available in a more timely way and to ensure that they cover a longer period of time, and give more details on how the data will draw on information held by other Government departments. The Government should also consider how best to present its destination data, to mitigate the risk that schools are judged primarily on the number of their students going onto higher education.

 

We recommend that the Government, in its careers strategy, take steps to simplify the delivery of its careers policy at the national level. It should put a single Minister and a single Department in charge of co-ordinating careers provision for all ages, and set out how it plans to rationalise the number of Government-funded organisations delivering careers programmes.

 

We recommend that the Government work with employers and schools to produce a plan to ensure that all students at Key Stage 4 have the opportunity to take part in meaningful work experience.

all get a big thumbs up from me.

Other points such as for the Careers & Enterprise Company to take on the “inspiration agenda” work of the National Careers Service might be good strategic ideas but, as an end facilitator of that provision, I’m more concerned that high quality provision is on offer. How the email invites actually make their way to my inbox doesn’t bother me.

What does concern me though is the sheer unfortunate timing of the whole report and seemingly oblivious to external factors the report (actually written on the 29th June) is.

Firstly the report is published in the post-Brexit maelstrom. We currently have a barely functioning Parliament as both main parties are gripped in their own internal struggles. Getting traction from Ministers caught up promoting their favoured candidates in the Conservative Leadership election will be difficult before the summer recess and, with a General Election a possible blot on the horizon (and so a new Education Secretary) not likely after. If Brexit can scupper an entire White Paper, what hope a report from a sub-committee? Will the report be championed by the opposition? Well, it would need a quick grasp of a new brief from a new Shadow Education MP only a few days into her role after the previous incumbent lasted two days.

The aftershock of the Brexit vote on Government business cannot be underestimated. The Institute for Government rates the Life Chances Strategy (of which the Careers & Enterprise Company is a component) as “delayed” and highly dependent on whoever takes the Tory leadership crown.

Another iceberg in the way of traction is the Chilcot report on the Iraq War. Released the day after the sub-Committee Careers report, it is sure to consume news headlines and, already hard pressed, Parliamentary focus.

Then there is the reliance in the report on Ofsted to monitor CEIAG provision in schools which doesn’t appear to quite realise what’s happening to Ofsted.

We recommend that Ofsted introduce a specific judgment on careers information, advice and guidance for secondary schools, and set clear criteria for making these judgments. The Common Inspection Framework should be amended to make clear that a secondary school whose careers provision is judged as “requires improvement” or “inadequate” cannot be judged to be “outstanding” overall; likewise, a secondary school should be unable to receive an overall judgment of “good” if its careers provision is judged to be “inadequate”.

For context, this academic year has seen a sharp fall in the number of schools Ofsted is actually inspecting due, in part, to a new “targeted” inspection framework. One goal of a “self improving system” is to have this more targeted Inspectorate but the £31m funding “black hole” Ofsted faces over the next four years will drive the inspection framework just as much. Add to this the appointment of a new Chief Inspector from 2017 who will have her own views and priorities and it becomes concerning that relying on an Office for Standards without resources to monitor those standards perhaps isn’t the most effective driver of then improving those standards.

Back in 1997, Kylie Minogue released a track called “Some Kind of Bliss” as the opening to a new direction in her career. An expensive video was shot, indie credibility from the Manic Street Preachers brought in and a whole promotional blitz was planned. Then, on the Sunday before, Princess Diana died, the country had a collective weep and went out in their millions and brought Elton John instead. Kylie’s dalliance with indie was consigned to the musical dustbin. Releasing reports designed to improve CEIAG in the wake of the Brexit vote will have as much impact as when an Australian pop princesses tried to grab onto Britpop’s vanishing coat tails.

The rise of the career advice vlogger

Getting messages out there in an increasingly crowded and noisey media landscape can’t be easy. Especially when your target audience swings between hyperactivity and utter indifference as often as teenagers tend to do.

I am not a branding or communication specialist but if I were, I would imagine that a key message in Branding 101 is “inhabit the space in which your target audience communicates.” It is perhaps no surprise then that a trend seems to be growing among stakeholders who are keen to promote career ideals to young people in starting to utilise the art of vlogging to spread their message.

Vlogging, in internet terms, isn’t new and has lead to a whole new breed of celebrity whose ability to speak directly and frequently with their loyal audiences has meant that brands have been quick to piggy back their products into the medium. Mostly though, vloggers have regular themes (fashion, gaming, travel, challenges) which they return to through their “daily life” stories. The trick that industry organisations such as Tomorrow’s Engineers or government backed bodies such as YOUR LIFE are now trying to achieve is to make the “career journey” the main theme of the vlogs and each channel.

Tomorrow’s Engineers have taken the route of hiring two young people in the early stages of their own STEM career journey and asking them to document their progress. The newest to the process seems like Nayeeb who is in his 3rd year at UCL (rule 1 of vlogging; look at the lens and stop checking out your hair on the viewfinder) while Lily, seems to have more of a blogging background having been running a lifestyle blog and (relatively) small scale twitter for a few years.

The YOUR LIFE team have taken a different approach. Rather than focus on more unknown internet personalities and attempt to build them up, they have appointed a number of vloggers who already have growing followings. The Mandeville Sisters with a feed of lifestyle, fashion and movie events (Youtube followers: about 51,000, Twitter followers: about 6,400), Victorious Sponge – ‘wacky’ comedy (Youtube followers: about 73,000, Twitter followers: about 3,200) and Ashens – retro games, retro toys and…sweets? (Youtube followers: about 920,000, Twitter followers: about 73,000) have all been enlisted to make videos that spread the STEM message. Hiring slightly more established internet bloggers was perhaps more of an option for YOUR LIFE though as their 2014-15 funding alone was £600,000 but, ultimately, what matters here is the impact these communication channels have.

In the world of vlogging, shares, likes and view counts are king. For both organisations mentioned, getting high numbers of these will be the first challenge (at the time of writing Lily’s intro video has only 250 views in 20 days). Those involved with YOUR LIFE are still tiny compared to the behemoths of the medium, the ubiquitous Zoella is now at over 9 million Youtube subscribers and 3.7 million Twitter followers and there are plenty of others whose follower counts blow the YOUR LIFE teams out of the water. Even then if the views do start stacking up, the actual impact on young people’s (particularly girls) subject and career decisions will be a much tougher consequence to measure. It will be interesting to see the success of this new model in reaching a hard to reach audience with a CEIAG message.

The School of Life view on careers

One of the most enjoyable parts of talking to young people about careers is the uneven and unpredictable mixture of the nuts and bolts (what grades do I need for this course?) and the bigger questions (how do I find a job that makes me happy?) you get.

It’s those bigger questions which, for me, made the theory module in the Level 6 Career Guidance & Theory qualification so interesting and worthwhile. It’s also why, once in a while, I think it’s a good idea to read and ruminate on articles like the ones linked below from the School of Life. The School is an organisation of academics, lecturers and writers who wish to aid people think about and begin to find answers to the bigger questions around relationships, careers and fulfillment. Usually, when careers advice starts to tread close to the lapping waters of “life coaching” my inner skeptic makes me take a quick exit but I liked the clear, down to earth language of the articles and videos and their wider messages.

On Misemployment and how what’s important isn’t just employment numbers but what those human hours are doing:

http://www.thebookoflife.org/unemployment-down-at-last-misemployment-bad-as-ever/

On motivation at work and were we derive the real value of striving to do a good job:

http://www.thebookoflife.org/the-origin-of-motivation-at-work/

On what makes people unhappy at work:

http://www.thebookoflife.org/why-youre-probably-not-enjoying-your-job-very-much/

which includes the paragraphs

…our societies have fallen prey to the charming but reckless democratic idea that everyone has a professional destiny – and should be left alone to discover it. But, in truth, almost no one does have such a thing. Most of us hover weakly between multiple possibilities; we have no sense of what we would deeply enjoy, what is available and what we would be best suited to. Panicked, we therefore choose blindly, in a hurry, under pressure – and, inevitably, erroneously.

Before choosing, we are often sent to a career counsellor for a session or two – in order to decide the nature of our work on this earth for the next 40 years. We spend more time choosing a car or a holiday.

Career counselling should have become one of the major growth-areas of our times. Scientists should be competing to develop ever more accurate technology in the field. The stars of the profession should be on television. Yet currently, the job feels on a par with being a brain surgeon in medieval times, a mixture of quackery and guess-work.

which I think speaks a lot of truth.

Postscript:

Another School of Life video about how Capitalism could be improved written by Ha-Joon Chang narrated by Alain de Botton.