It’s a truth that any nationwide structural improvement in the offer of Careers Education Information Advice & Guidance for school children is going to need to the fundamental support of employers and the business community. Clearly that has been acknowledged by the early work of the Careers & Enterprise Company as they have built a network of Enterprise Coordinators and Advisers and positioned themselves as a professional facing organisation.
Practitioners know that the networks needed for this work are built through finding gatekeepers in other companies with shared goals, working on achievable projects and, sometimes, through being complimentary
to help build a positive image of engaging with education. There are times though when this flattery seems like an easy public relations win glossing over past actions that are not in the spirit of great public concern.
Karren Brady (Baroness Brady CBE) is a regular media contributor to the national debate on the transition of young people into the world of work
“One of the biggest challenges employers face is that school-leavers are simply not ready for work. They lack even basic soft skills like confidence, engagement, conduct and punctuality.”
(that do not reflect business survey data)
and offering advice to young people on how to be well prepared for the world of work via stakeholders such as Barclays LifeSkills.
Her day job though is Vice-Chair of West Ham Football Club, owned by two majority shareholders David Sullivan and David Gold. In was in this capacity that, in 2016, she completed the negotiations of the “deal of the century” with the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) for West Ham to move into the ex-Olympic stadium for a 99 year period. This was the result of a tortured and controversial bidding process. The stadium, after a £272m conversion to be suitable to host both football and other events, cost the taxpayer at the time of the deal £701m. In a complicated deal that includes further add-ons if the club is sold, reductions in fees if the club is relegated and splits of hospitality income and upkeep costs, the bare bones were that West Ham would pay a £15m upfront fee and £2.5m a year in rent. Costs continued to rise for the taxpayer even after the deal was agreed due to further conversion complications.
I have previously calculated that, for every secondary school in England to be funded in line with the costs determined by the Gatsby report, £181m would need to be found each academic year.
Warning: extremely simplified accounting follows:
£701m – £15m, – £5m (rent for 16/17 & 17/18 seasons) = £681m
£681m divided by £181m = 3.76 academic years worth of Gatsby standard careers provision the West Ham deal currently removed from the public purse.
Of course, this is not a cut and dried case. Many pointed fingers at the time at the LLDC for negotiating such a one-sided deal for the taxpayer and the continuing losses that mount up. Others blamed West Ham for taking advantage of the public purse, especially when the revenues of Premier League clubs have never been healthier.
Brady had previously, as a Conservative Peer, voted through Tax Credit cuts for working families and promoted the party line that Labour were profligate with public money (both on Twitter and in person at the 2013 Conservative Party Conference)
while then leading a negotiation that resulted in the taxpayer covering some huge financial losses while the business she advocated for, gained a substantial commercial asset.
Employer engagement is a vital part of Careers work and employers should be congratulated and encouraged to get involved with building the skills of the next generation. What this sort of community work should not be treated as though is a way of keeping up a positive profile while at the same time taking business decisions which do not aid the wider community. This is not a zero sum, either or, game, plenty of Careers practitioners will be working with colleagues from business who not only dedicate time to helping young people but also lead their business with an ethical mindset, the EY Foundation being just one example of the sort of work organisations such as Business in the Community want to encourage. Supporting the Public Sector prepare young people for the world of work is more than just an afternoon at a speed dating interview event.