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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Finding a solution to the Careers Leader conundrum

Headteachers face a daily barrage of decisions and choices be they to do with staff, curriculum, funding, parents, the community, the list goes on and, at some point over the next few months, the Department for Education expects that one of these decisions will be to nominate a “Careers Leader” for their school. This requirement, with the demand for schools to publish their programme of careers events, was included in both the updated 2018 Statutory Careers Guidance for schools and the wider looking Careers Strategy.

The careers strategy sets out that every school needs a Careers Leader who
has the energy and commitment, and backing from their senior leadership team, to
deliver the careers programme across all eight Gatsby Benchmarks. Every school
will be asked to name this Careers Leader. This requirement will be introduced in
September 2018, by when more information and support will be made available

Since the removal of Connexions funding and the requirement on schools to offer CEIAG back in 2012, schools have responded with a multitude of staffing structures. My experience of CEIAG teams of staff responsible for careers include:

  • A Senior Leader
  • A teacher leading on Careers as a teaching & learning responsibility alongside classroom teaching
  • A non teaching, pastoral member of staff co-ordinating careers provision
  • A contracted guidance practitioner brought in by the school
  • A practitioner from a contracted outside agency who combines guidance and co-ordinator roles
  • A consultant type role from the Multi Academy Trust head office
  • A member of admin staff who is tasked to support the careers team
  • A member of another pastoral team (mentors, house leaders etc) who has some of their timetable dedicated to careers support

or any mixture of the above. The combinations of CEIAG teams vary widely and even when job titles match, the actual duties of those professionals from school to school can differ enormously.

Oversight and tracking of these changes in the careers workforce since 2011 can be found throughout the work of David Andrews. Whether when replying to Parliament or publishing papers considering the future journey of Careers policy (from back in 2013),

While there is evidence that some schools have responded to the new policy by establishing innovative provision that represents an improvement on what was available in the recent past, the overall situation in schools is a deterioration in
the level of careers guidance. Schools are adopting a range of models for
securing access to careers guidance for their pupils.

through his country-wide travels, consultancy and courses he has been consistently abreast of the changes in how careers provision has been delivered for young people. It is from these varied starting points that schools will now attempt to incorporate the Careers Leader job title into their structure.

The 2018 Careers guidance also promised that a job role outline would be published by the DfE to help schools define the role by September 2018. Even before that both the Careers Enterprise Company (CEC) and the CDI have released guidance material and proposed job outlines. The CEC see the roles in schools falling into line with the table below:

careers leaders1

but I think they would be wrong to assume that a “Co-ordinator” type role will disappear. Some schools will name a current non teaching Careers Co-ordinator as their Careers Leader and even change their job title but many though will name a member of SLT as their Careers Leader which still then leaves plenty of Careers work for a Co-ordinator to do as shown by the suggested job description from the CDI.

I put out a poll on Twitter and most of the replies either nominated a non teaching CEIAG lead or a Teacher as their Careers Lead.

Both of these solutions would fit the CDI vision of a Careers Leader being a professional role but those who replied “teacher” will also find themselves in a position where the nominated Careers Leader isn’t actually the member of staff carrying out most of the duties of a Careers Leader. A classroom teacher simply couldn’t fit the work in. As the CDI say though,

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

so getting hung up about job titles and responsibilities won’t add much value to CEIAG careers provision in schools. Schools will allocate responsibilities how they see fitting within their budget, pastoral and current staffing structures. Especially at a time when budgets are extremely tight for schools and only going to get worse.

The complete failure to allocate funding that matches the ambition of the Careers Strategy is not suddenly going to disappear just because everyone agrees on a job title and job description. This is not fertile ground on which to sow requests for schools to restructure staffing or find wages for new roles. At the time of writing (March 2018) a quick scan of the careers posts advertised reflect this as such. In the adverts for a 3 day a week non teaching post and a teaching post below, the pay is low for the dedicated role and the teacher would be fitting the duties in alongside leading a department and a teaching timetable.

The Careers Strategy did also come with the promise of funding for training for 500 Careers Leaders which the CEC then set out how this funding would be accessed in their Implementation Plan response.

careers leaders2

Any standardization of CEIAG job roles across schools seems a little way off just yet so I’m not convinced that, between now and September that schools will suddenly all start to coalesce around the same staffing structure for CEIAG. Without funding for capacity, schools will make do and mend with who they have. I would also be wary that the schools that first take up this job title will be those with some form of CEIAG team already in place so I would go further than the CEC plan for Careers Leader training above and bar any school that currently holds a Careers Quality Mark from applying. That would better ensure that the funds were going to schools most resistant or unable to enact quality careers provision until now.

What the CEC and CDI (and the forthcoming DfE) Careers Leader job descriptions do offer though is a uniformity of duty and purpose. If nothing else, they allow Leaders lucky enough to be in post to use those job descriptions to find the elbow room to be able to carry out good CEIAG work in schools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The apprenticeship accountability hole in the Careers Strategy

Now that the Careers Strategy and both the subsequent Statutory Guidance for Schools and the Guidance for Colleges and Sixth Forms has been published, thoughts turn to not just implementation of the ambitions contained in all 3 documents but how the progress of the sector (and Government) will be measured against them.

A cornerstone of both the Careers Strategy and the Statutory Guidance for Schools is the need to improve the awareness of and the aspiration to apply for apprenticeship routes in young people.

The Careers Strategy decrees that the new Baker Clause law will ensure that young people are, ” are clear about the opportunities offered by technical, employment-focused education” (para 32). It highlights the work and the resources offered by the Apprenticeship Ambassador Network as a way of promoting the route. STEM apprenticeships should be promoted (para 44), the £4m funded training for 500 of the newly defined Career Leader posts in schools will include information about apprenticeships and the revamped National Careers Service website will include apprenticeship information as well as allowing young people to apply for vacancies through the site.

Meanwhile, the Statutory Guidance for Schools again is clear on the requirement to include information on apprenticeships in careers provision and promotes organisations such as Amazing Apprenticeships and the ASK Apprenticeship scheme as well as the steps needed for a school to be compliant with the Baker Clause (paras 61-69).

This is all to be welcomed by Careers practitioners in schools looking for more power to their elbow to help them prepare an impartial careers programme. What is missing though from both documents and, it seems, wider Department For Education thinking is how this provision will be evaluated. The Statutory Guidance document includes reference to how Ofsted will evaluate the outcomes of this work

Destination Measures

A successful careers guidance programme will also be reflected in higher numbers of pupils progressing to positive destinations such as apprenticeships, technical routes, sixth form colleges, further education colleges, universities or employment. Destination measures provide clear and comparable information on the success of schools in helping all of their pupils take qualifications that offer them the best opportunity to continue in education or training.

in their Section 5 inspections. If the entire evaluation of this theme of the Careers Strategy and Guidance is just these (sometimes very infrequent) inspections of schools below Outstanding grade) looking at destinations of KS4 & KS5 leavers, then a lot of schools will be harshly judged for their work.

We know that employers favour hiring older employees for their apprenticeships as Ofsted laid out in their 2015 report “Apprenticeships: developing skills for future prosperity (para 26).

While still early after the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, it should also be noted that the number of Level 2 apprenticeships accessible for school leavers is falling while the growth is in the higher Degree Level apprenticeships, many of which are not new positions but current employees taking new training.

This further narrowing in the number of opportunities for young people to actually progress into means that using only destination measures to monitor the success of careers provision is a metric weighed heavily against schools.

A much fairer way would be to measure both the aspiration of young people to progress into an apprenticeship route and then the number of applications made. At institutional level, collecting this data would be the responsibility of the Careers Leader but at regional and national level, the Government should surely be collating this.

The intentions of young people are regularly assessed by the DfE in their Omnibus Survey series of surveys, the most recent of which shows that apprenticeships still have a journey to make to become a first choice for significant numbers of students

That being said, as Ofsted noted above, young people have always been the largest cohort of registrations and applications on the Find An Apprenticeship portal as the spreadsheets here show. As you can see from the number of registrations by age and number of applications by age spreadsheets, interest from those 19 and under has always outstripped the supply of vacancies.

The problem is that the DfE has now stopped publishing these figures. This will be a substantive hole in the accountability data for the success of the Careers Strategy and the Statutory Guidance for schools.

Judging the progress and impact of the Careers Strategy and Statutory Guidance for schools is a wide reaching task but one that will only possible in any meaningful, quantifiable way, if data such as the number of applications for apprenticeships made young people of school leaver age is collected and published. The DfE should rethink their decision to stop publishing these stats.

 

The 2017 Careers Strategy: Making the most of everyone’s skills and talents

This morning at the annual CDI conference the Government has announced the publication of it’s long awaited Careers Strategy.

Link to the Strategy:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/664319/Careers_strategy.pdf

Link to the Press Release:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/careers-guidance-for-modern-country-unveiled

Links to media coverage:

https://www.tes.com/news/further-education/breaking-news/government-launches-new-careers-strategy

https://schoolsweek.co.uk/careers-strategy-the-4-main-proposals-for-schools/

 

Links to stakeholder reaction:

http://www.naht.org.uk/welcome/news-and-media/key-topics/leadership/careers-guidance/

http://ersa.org.uk/media/news/government-launches-its-long-awaited-careers-strategy

http://www.cbi.org.uk/news/introducing-dedicated-careers-leaders-should-give-careers-inspiration-much-needed-prominence-in-schools/

 

 

There are lots of smaller announcements in the document. Whether or not these add up to form a coherent strategy will remain to be seen. Some of the announcements of new provision do come with added funding but, it should be clear, that these funding levels are well below the historic Connexions funding and below the required funding outlined via the Gatsby report.

Practitioners will go through the document with a fine tooth comb looking for sections which most impact their work, accordingly I have concentrated on announcements to do with school and college careers work. There is plenty in the Strategy to do with adult careers services as well.

Below are some of the bits that jumped out at me on first reading

A: A new website for the National Careers Service is coming

careersstrat6

B: A Careers Leader job description will also be published while schools will need to publish the contact details of this person and the provision their schools provide from September 2018. The list of responsibilities of a Careers Leader may well end the historic careers in schools cliche of teachers taking the role in a few free timetable slots.

The funding for training Careers Leaders is welcome but it should be acknowledged that is it for 500 schools (approx £8000 per school). There are currently 3408 secondary schools.

Previously Connexions was funded approx £200m annually while the Gatsby report concluded that (from it’s second year) a funded schools Careers programme would cost £44,676 per academic year or over £152m an academic year for the current number of secondary schools.

careersstrat5

C: 20 “Careers hubs” look like an expansion of the North East Enterprise Partnership Gatsby pilot. Will these match with Opportunity Areas and will each Hub employ their own Co-ordinator as the pilot did

careersstrat4

D: A firm challenge to the Quality in Careers Consortium. Despite lobbying for a required status, the Strategy retains the “recommeded” nature of Quality Standards and clearly demands that their invigilation and inspection requirements are strengthened to meet the Gatsby Standards. The recent results from the Compass self evaluation tool show that this will be a big change.

careersstrat3

E: CEIAG provision in primary schools will be getting it’s own funding boost and research to see what works for young people at this stage of education

careersstrat2

F: A handy timeline of when all the components of the Strategy will come online

careersstrat1

G: For many years policy makers have been calling for a centralised portal for applying for vocational courses – the Strategy says this could happen and it would be hosted on the National Careers Service website

careersstrat7

H: Schools should be putting on a Careers Fair, speed dating or work experience type event for every year group, every academic year

careersstrat8

I: New Statutory guidance is coming in January 2018 – which is also the crux of the biggest problem with the strategy

careersstrat9

There are other small pots of funding allocated throughout, £5m in 2018 for a further round of Careers & Enterprise Company investment funding for example, but the ultimate aim of the document is to push the system towards offering a Gatsby Standards level of provision without the Gatsby Standards invoice.

Also missing is any notion of accountability or monitoring for these changes. The research arm of the Careers & Enterprise Company is churning out publications highlighting impact of past provision but the Strategy makes no mention of tracking impacts of provision on cohorts of students.

We are beset on all sides by the tyranny of bad CEIAG reports

kxu81h

“say jobs of the future again, I dare you, I double dare you”

A lot of reports get published that look at the state of CEIAG provision for young people in the UK and offer improvement ideas. As well as policy makers there are a vast number of stakeholder organisations in this arena and across areas such as social mobility, apprenticeships, vocational education that all overlap with Careers Advice. Some of these organisations are more upfront in the policy ambitions of their backers than others but all have found that publishing a report is a proven method of gaining those all important media column inches if you want to advance your agenda.

Some sink, never to pass over the desks of Ministers while others take center stage in shaping Government thinking. The quality spectrum of these reports is wide and two came out recently that, to my mind, should be filed at the weaker end of the publication pool.

First up came Beyond the Numbers: Incentivising & implementing better apprenticeships from the University of Sheffield. Branded under their “Sheffield Solutions” research arm, the publication was based on a number of interviews with

local and national stakeholders in education, training and youth services, staff members – including tutors, trainers and employers

views from apprentices which were collected from

two focus groups and a number of in-depth, semi-structured interviews

as well as previous publications. The report includes quotes and stories that rehash the cliches of school CEIAG’s relationship to apprenticeships, including a lack of information regarding alternative to HE routes, a belief that apprenticeships were treated as a second class pathway and that high achieving pupils were actively discouraged from applying for them. The actual application figures of young people compared to the opportunities on offer, isn’t considered.

Where the report really falls down though is in it’s recommendations for schools

sheffield1

  1. Rethinking school league tables to include apprenticeships – this already happens. When you go the DfE school comparison site you can find individual school data through school name, distance to your postcode, through Local Authority area or through Parliamentary Constituency. Users can then scroll down past huge amounts of information about the school to find the Pupil Destinations – what pupils did after key stage 4 drop down menu and, hey presto, there is that information.

sheffield2

You can also find this data about key stage 5 leavers on the 16-18 tab further up the page.

Apprenticeship destination information is a single drop on a website that is an ocean of information about each school from the number of teachers, to the performance of disadvantaged pupils, to the number of pupils entered in Physics, Biology and Chemistry. Data on pupils remaining in education or employment after leaving the school is included in the headline data

sheffield3

but the sheer amount of other information means that users are left to navigate to find what is important to them.

2. Extra training and resources for Careers Advisers in school about apprenticeships – nobody is ever going to say ‘no’ to more resources or extra training which is why the DfE has contracted organisations across the country to offer this to schools. The provider across the Midlands is Workpays. They will come into school to offer provision for students, send you resources and offer training. The DfE has a page with resources for schools and advisers and the ASK (Apprenticeship Support & Knowledge) providers will come and offer events for students. The University of Sheffield is, again, recommending something that already exists.

3. Coordinated, single application process for apprenticeships – Guess what, it already exists. Find An Apprenticeship is not a great website (it’s text search is terrible) but it is a single, coordinated portal for apprenticeships. All of the apprenticeships, they’re all on there. What it is not though is a single application process as many apprenticeship vacancies require an applicant to click through to the employer website to register (again) and complete an application. This is something that is out of the hands of Government as many employers will insist on their own hiring methods that are standardized across their business for all job roles. This is part of the challenge when supporting a young person through a labyrinth registration process on a company website full of business jargon but it fits established employer HR practices.

So all three of the recommendations for education are, to some extent, already in place which highlights how, while diagnosing problems with CEIAG provision may be achievable, offering solutions requires more a real understanding of the landscape.

The other report that caught my attention was Averting a 90Bn GDP crises: A report on the image and recruitment crises facing the built environment carried out by Kier Group by polling “2000 secondary school teachers, advisers and parents.” The Group, a profitable player in the UK construction market, look very keen to play their part in improving student career advice by pledging 1% of their workforce to act as ambassadors and place a “virtual world plaque” on sites to help the public “explore a digital world of information on a project.” They hope that these initiatives will begin to change widely held views of their industry as their poll reports 73% of parents not wanting their child to pursue a career in the sector and, despite 76% knowing that apprenticeships lead to careers in construction, 45% wouldn’t encourage their child to take an apprenticeship when leaving school. To it’s credit the report gives context to the current CEIAG landscape by devoting a whole page the loss of funding and the placing of the legal duty on schools in 2012.

Where the report fails to offer much value is, again, in the recommended solutions, both those from within the construction industry and from government, to improve the situation. Despite clearly identifying that parents are a persuasive and influential negative voice against young people aspiring to work in their industry they suggest nothing to then engage with parents. That parents are an important voice in shaping the career views of a young person is backed up by other data and we also have clear indications of how young people would like to receive their CEIAG and what types of provision help them most. An important type of provision is work experience and workplace visits, the report also fails to acknowledge or offer a proposal to grow the dearth of these opportunities in the sector.

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The 1% workforce ambassador pledge will hopefully, from a very low base, improve the number of work inspiration opportunities.

From Government they ask that the Careers & Enterprise Company is allowed to continue it’s work (it will be so this isn’t much of recommendation) and

2. Mandate that every school gives children a minimum of three one hour careers advice sessions – the first session with a school advisor, follow up sessions with ambassadors from relevant industries.
3. Ensuring the frameworks and resources are in place to support schools and colleges to meet all of the eight benchmarks identified by the Gatsby Foundation14 for best practice careers advice
4. Mandate that the careers advice process begins as early as possible in a young person’s life to enable them to make informed choices about their subject/course selection

which are all useful and worthwhile suggestions but after earlier acknowledging that

as part of the difficult choices made through austerity measures, funding for Connexions was cut, leaving a significant responsibility largely resting with schools themselves

and that

given substantial and repeated budget cuts, other schools are unable to provide the kind of service that they would aspire to

the report fails to then include the obvious point that these (uncosted) increases in service provision would require more funding. This shows a lack of willingness to bring up the funding of public services for the wider benefit and a failure to acknowledge the financial reality in schools.

Reports that help shine attention to the issues with employer engagement and CEIAG in schools but also then offer constructive solutions that work within the realities of the landscape are to be welcomed. Reports that finger point at a Careers service under funded and unable to solve all of the problems laid at it’s door without significant collaboration and investment, only have one purpose; to shift the focus of blame away from the other stakeholders.

The logical failure of the 2017 CBI Education & Skills Survey

Like any membership lobbying organisation, the CBI support their members to make them look as good as possible and promote the greater value of and worth of business to society. They have their work cut out, surveys show that the general public is distrustful with less than half believing British businesses act ethically, so their annual survey of business leaders (The CBI/Pearson Education & Skills Survey) is a chance to shift the focus elsewhere.

The 2017 iteration is drawn from an online questionnaire completed by 344 employers. (It is worth comparing at the outset this methodology against other recent employer surveys such as the recent DfE Employer perspective survey (which I blogged on here) which was drawn from telephone interviews with over 18,000 establishments across the labour market including non-profit organisations but more on that later).

The scale of employer engagement in education is an important topic with the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) tasked with expanding this work to improve CEIAG provision and so prove the research evidence of the benefits to be gained for students. Future qualification and pathway policy is also heavily geared towards gaining employer buy in and engagement. This means that establishing a base point of employer engagement is vital in judging progress and knowing where to target resources. The CEC has already made progress in this area with their Cold Spots research. Using a range of data points and sources, this shows that outcomes for young people (much like HE progression and academic achievement rates) varies greatly across the different regions of the UK.

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One of the data points used to model the amount of employer engagement is the UKCES Employer Perspectives Survey 2014. This is the preceding biannual release of the DfE Employer Perspective Survey mentioned above before the closure of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills in March 2017 which the DfE then took over.

That the CEC is using this data on employer engagement and not information published by the CBI is the first hint that the two sources on employer engagement tell very different tales.

The CBI survey offers useful views on the value business leaders places on their required skills from school leavers

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plus their satisfaction on school leaver skill levels

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and a plea for more young people to be speakers of foreign languages (page 34). The Employer Perspectives survey meanwhile does not break down employer satisfaction with school leavers into skill areas but by age of recruits (fig 3.7) so comparisons are difficult but, at all ages, it found employers were more satisfied than dissatisfied with the skill levels of their young recruits.

The survey begins to raise eyebrows though with the claims of employer engagement with education including the number of firms that offer work experience. Let’s remind ourselves what the 2017 Employer Perspectives Survey reported,

  • That 65% of employers thought that relevant work experience is a critical or significant factor when taking on a recruit but only 38% of employers had offered a work experience opportunity in the past 12 months
  • There is a huge variation between the sectors that offer work experience (fig 3.9)
  • Only 10% of employers offered work inspiration activities to students

This differs drastically to the findings of the CBI Survey that 81% of employers had some links with education

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and that these links were “extensive in all parts of the UK.” Not only is this claim widely divergent with the finding from a methodologically more detailed and comprehensive survey, it also undermines the very basis on which the CEC has prioritised its work across the country. Regarding employer links with education, the CBI says there are no cold spots.

The differences continue in the value of work experience with only 23% of businesses reporting that relevant work experience is an “important” factor when recruiting a young person (fig 2.1 pictured above) which is well below the 65% of employers reporting similar in the Employer Perspectives Survey. There is also a lack of consistency of expectations in the CBI results with employers also stating that 54% were not satisfied with school leavers relevant work experience (fig 2.3 pictured above). Why would employers be unsatisfied with something they’ve also deemed not important to recruitment?

The data on the types of provision employers offer through their links with schools is couched in a presentational sleight of hand as the percentages are offered as percentages of those business who have education links, not a percentage of the total businesses. Thus

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So the CBI is not claiming that 81% of employers provide careers advice talks but that 81% of the 81% with links to education provide careers advice talks. Because we have the total numbers of employers the CBI received responses from (344) we can work this back – 81% of 344 = 279, 81% of 279 = 225, 225 divided by 344 = the CBI is actually reporting that 65% of employers offer careers advice talks. The Employer Perspectives Survey concluded that just 10% of employers offer careers inspirations activities including careers talks.

The differences between the two surveys continue when discussing work experience. The CBI concludes (using the same method above) that around 63% of employers offer work experience placements. The Employer Perspectives Survey reported 38% of employers offered placements and that differences between industries can be stark.

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The CBI survey also includes business views on both the work of the CEC and the current state of CEIAG provision. They find that the CEC still has plenty of scope to increase their connections with business as only 7% of respondents were engaged with the Company.

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That 79% businesses were unaware of the work of the CEC is not surprising when you also consider that only 28% of employers are aware of the new GCSE grading system.

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The CBI though are wholly positive about the need and remit of the CEC

The CBI fully supports their work which has a focus on practical, enabling solutions.

and

Underpinned by sufficient resources, the CEC should play a major role in England in
supporting schools and businesses to develop productive relationships to the benefit of young people.

but the views of the businesses surveyed are extremely negative about the quality of CEIAG provision

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84% of businesses reporting that Careers advice is not good enough is an overwhelming verdict but also similar percentage to the four previous survey results show in 3.16. The CBI goes strong on its verdict on current Careers provision

These are seriously troubling results. They highlight the urgent need for radical improvement.

This all adds up to a muddled picture offered by the CBI.

They and the employers they surveyed are claiming that 81% of business have links with schools across the country, 65% offer careers advice talks and 63% offer work experience placements. This equates to a large-scale engagement with education yet, it is these same employers from whom 79% had not heard of the work of the CEC. It is from these same employers that less than a third were aware of the introduction of whole new GCSEs and grading systems. The same employers who are engaged with education to offer huge amounts of careers provision but 84% of them also reported unsatisfaction with the Careers advice offered. The solution offered by the CBI to change these views? More engagement with education through the CEC.

Establishing hard quantitative data on employer engagement is not easy as previous studies have shown. Using only limited survey data though can mean results with the failures of logic shown above. The CBI cannot continue to claim that the majority of employers are playing their part in provision only to then be overwhelmingly critical of the scale, quality and outcomes of that provision.