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Good practice in organising work experience placements

It’s easy to forget that, below the headline announcements and big speeches, Government departments are usually just chugging away with administrating policy, managing change and commissioning and learning (hopefully) from research. A recent (March 2017) 148 page research report by the NatCen Social Research and SQW was published by the DfE entitled “Work experience and related activities in schools and colleges” whose aim was “to consider current provision and operational practice of work-related activities at schools and colleges in England.” Which isn’t really what it does, for it only really focuses on work experience provision and pays scant regard to other kinds of employe engagement.

Based on the results of over 700 survey responses and 278 interviews (all conducted in the 2016 Summer term) the report paints a picture of what methods schools and employers make use of and which they struggle with when planning, sourcing and organising work experience placements. (The report covers this process in both schools and Further Education Colleges but it’s the work with Pre 16 students that I will concentrate on here) It is full of interesting data regarding participation of students and barriers some perceive to taking up placements, how schools prepare students for placements, quality control of those placements and evaluate the impact on students post placement.

This all results in is a good practice guide that can help practitioners to offer effective work experience schemes

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and a recommendation to the DfE

Despite widespread acceptance of the importance of work-related activities in preparing young people for the world of work, and some common agreement about what constituted good practice, it was noted that the absence of clear guidance from the Department for Education in relation to work-related learning pre-16, meant that it was not always prioritised (whether in the curriculum or in staffing). The absence of guidance was felt to be particularly impactful when governors/ senior leaders needed to be persuaded of the benefits of delivering a structured programme of work-related activities. Detailed guidance related to pre-16 provision, therefore, is to be welcomed

which, I would imagine, is a plea that would be welcomed by CEIAG practitioners in schools.

Throughout, the report is full of interesting titbits, some of which caught my eye were:

  • Funding constraints are restricting school work in this area

It was felt that, in order to support an expansion of work related activities at a time when school and college budgets were tight, additional (central) funding was required

  • Employers are keen for placements to be longer than one week
  • Work experience is still the most common form of employer engagement offered by schools at KS4

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  • 66% of respondents send students out on placements in the Summer term and 86% organise block placements rather than separate days.
  • The most popular reason for timing of placements is to fit around programmes of learning 55% which suggests schools are not being flexible to the needs of employers or learners when planning such provision.
  • 24% report that “not finding enough placements” is the largest reason for not all students accessing placements while “lack of confidence” (89%) and “fear of the unknown” (81%) where the biggest challenges to students taking up placements which shows how important the personal support practitioners offer their students in the build up to placements is.
  • That some sectors of employment are clearly failing to find ways to offer enough placements to meet demand as schools report common difficulties (% of respondents reporting employment sectors where it was difficult to find placements)

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  • That concerns around health and safety and insurance are still holding employers back from offering placements
  • That schools are working with a range of organisations to help source placements

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(although note the low % working with Enterprise Advisers through the Careers & Enterprise Company is likely due to the Summer 2016 date of the survey when the organisation was much newer)

  • That far too few schools spend any time following up with employers post placements to provide feedback or assess how the placement went (% of schools who undertook follow activities with employers)

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The report also looks at the rationale and reasoning for running a work experience scheme in the first place and it is cheering to see the range of impacts and employers that schools believe such provision can have on young people, which makes the practical barriers that do exist when organising KS4 placements all the more frustrating.

Knowing what CEIAG works: The #EEinETconf

It’s rare that I get out to large-scale conferences due to school commitments and cost but I was very fortunate last week to be able to attend the joint Edge Foundation & Education & Employers Taskforce International Conference on Employer Engagement in Education & Training. This was mostly due to the pricing of the early bird tickets for the two-day event which, frankly, put the cost of other big conferences in this area to shame.

For a careers geek like me, both days were full of superbly interesting stuff. Of course, the keynote sessions from the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher and Harvard’s Robert Schwartz took the biggest rooms but it was some of the breakout presentations that I found the most fascinating.

Previous research by the Education & Employers Taskforce has already helped shaped the current policy thinking in careers work in schools. Their use of longitudinal and survey data shows a consistent trend in the worth of employer interaction in a student’s future success (example 1 & example 2) in the labour market. The impact those wage gain headline figures can have on the views of policymakers has been obvious with the foundation of the Careers & Enterprise Company to help facilitate these kind of interactions. (In fact, a continuing theme across the Conference was the need for academics to present the headlines of their research in short, catchy bullet points for busy Ministerial eyes).

Two of the sessions in particular focused on summary type academic research projects, that is research which combines and compares findings from other studies. One of these was the launch of an International Literature Review on Careers Education by Deirdre Hughes and Dr Anthony Mann. I’ve blogged about this work previously.

The second session was an overview of work carried out by the team at the Education & Employers Taskforce looking at academic literature which “explores the relationship between adult economic outcomes and teenage school mediated work related experiences and attitudes.”

Some of the outcomes of the individual studies covered are fascinating in their own right

 

for the insight into the benefits students gain from the sort of provision school CEIAG practitioners are organising every term but it is in the collation and comparison of the outcomes found such as in these two pieces of work that real benefits will be found. The larger the number of studies collated and compared, the more obvious outliers will be and the more robust the findings for the beneficial outcomes of each type of CEIAG provision. As the Powerpoint from Mann, Kashefpakdel & McKeown says in the penultimate slide (and I hoped for in my previous post), this work should result in a toolkit for practitioners to use in the Autumn. At a time when budget holders are under increasing pressure to spend their scarce resources wisely, toolkits which clearly show “bang for your buck” that is, the expected outcomes for specific interventions (especially for more disadvantaged learners), are almost vital. Knowing what works is always beneficial for galvanising practitioners but being to show what works is extremely important for negotiating time and resources from budget holders to actually enact that provision.

The whole two-day conference was full of insights into different provision and approaches to employer engagement in education but it was these two presentations that showed just how close we are to quantifying the benefits to learners of each item on the school CEIAG menu.

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 C.R.E.A.M of CEIAG

As, it seems very likely they will, those Gatsby benchmarks form the foundation of the forthcoming new Careers strategy to be published post EuroRef I thought I would make a preemptive point on a black hole that might appear.

For those of you cool (ahem) enough to get the reference in the blog title, you will have realised that the hole to which I refer is one of funding.

The CDI are confident in their predictions for the Gatsby benchmarks taking a core role and, in a recent news update to members (and in a comment on this blog) set out their requests from Government for funding to follow to enable schools to progress towards these benchmarks by achieving a Quality Award.

cdi email

In my opinion, whether funding dedicated for (further) assessment of provision rather than funding for actual provision would help schools do this is debatable and even necessary at all with both the forthcoming launch of an online Gatsby Benchmarking tool and the rise of the use of evidence to inform effective careers provision. If what works is what works and schools can see what works, a greater weight of assessment of provision should be on actual student outcomes rather than quality assessment and funding should be dedicated towards provision, not quality assessment of that provision. Again, this is only my view and there are experienced voices who disagree.

What is interesting though is not just that the CDI are asking for ringfenced funding which, in a post acadamised landscape, is a request that would be difficult to account for, but also the value of that funding.

The Gatbsy report which set out their benchmarks also set out the costings for achieving a level of careers provision which would schools to meet those benchmarks. The report (aided by the expertise of PriceWaterhouseCoopers no less) calculated

gatsby pic1

There are around 3381 secondary schools in England, so 1st year funding alone to meet those benchmarks would be over £181m. That’s a substantial amount of money and, as the CDI themselves noted in their response to the Educational Select Committee

Schools have been allocated no additional funding to take on responsibility for a service that previously cost local authorities £200 million per annum to provide.

when pointing out the loss of Connexions. The starting point seems to be then that this £181m will come from existing school budgets. They go onto say though

We accept that in the current economic climate we cannot expect an immediate return to this level of resourcing, but we do suggest that schools should be given some financial support to put in place careers support of a sufficiently high quality. A short-term development grant, linked to a requirement to gain a quality award, would offer an approach that has been shown to work in other settings.

Th figure allocated to this in the email is £1500 per school a year, or £5.71m for all secondary schools. A figure widely short of the Gatsby requirements and, when you remember that Careers Quality awards cost around £1600, a figure that wouldn’t even cover the cost of provision assessment let alone leave any funding for provision.

It is noticeable though how this is a specific request alongside an un-costed request for CPD “investment.” The call for CPD support is something other bodies with an interest in CEIAG echo but those bodies have also been making unspecified demands for funding for provision.

The position of the National Association of Headteachers is that “more legislation isn’t the answer” and is seeking the restoration of full funding for CEIAG.

The National Union of Teachers calls for “funding for professional development and resources for teachers in all schools, particularly in light of schools’ responsibilities for careers education, and advice” and for local authorities to be funded to rebuild careers advisory services lost due to cuts.

In their submission to the Select Committee, the NASUWT point out

In particular, careers and work-related learning and IAG services have declined substantially or, in some cases, have disappeared entirely as a result of significant and ongoing reductions in public investment in this area since May 2010

but don’t go into detail on how much funding they think would be necessary to restore a quality level of provision.

The ATL, meanwhile, called for funding for CEIAG specialists so that schools can meet their statutory responsibilities.

All of those demands, while lacking in substance, would require more funding from the Government who, for their part, would no doubt point towards their announcement of £70m towards mentors, enterprise passports and the Careers & Enterprise Company as offering a funding commitment. While though this should strengthen services on offer to schools to help meet some of the Gatsby benchmarks, none of this money will go directly to schools to enhance provision to meet either the statutory duty or the benchmarks and, again, is well below the total cost outlined in the Gatsby report.

Politics is the art of the possible” is a quote which has stood the test of time so there may be sense in the CDI asking for smaller funding levels tied to an easily measurable outcome from the Government. It certainly offers a clearly defined “win” for any Minister brave enough to find the money to support it. While it may succeed in gaining a positive response it will still leave schools short of funding to provide what is being asked of them. Asking for schools to be judged on the quality of their provision while simultaneously asking for the benchmarks of that provision to raised without the funds to back this leaves CEIAG departments in school facing an act of miracle making. If the new strategy does cherry pick the detailed benchmarks of quality provision as defined by Gatsby then it should not be forgotten that this provision comes with a funding cost of implementing it.

 

 

What would a new careers law solve?

A central voice in the “school careers is rubbish” choir has always been the FE and training provider sector. Seemingly not a week goes by without their spokespeople regaling tales of struggle to tunnel their way under the gun turrets on the school gates, dodging the sharp incisors of the hounds and avoiding the searchlights just to get their prospectus into the grateful hands of vocationally impoverished Year 11s. Okay, so that is a bit OTT but we’ve all heard the stories of FE Colleges requests to speak to students being ignored, careers advisers having to hide prospectuses out of the watchful eye of Sixth Form staff and open evening posters being hidden under school cake sale flyers on noticeboards. All, the FE sector claim, with the overarching aim of keeping more students in school sixth forms to protect funding streams rather than then letting students choose what is best for them and, by extension, the wider economy.

With our halos shining brightly (ahem), Careers practitioners in schools have been at the sharp end of these local politics and funding bottlenecks.

With this in mind, a new careers law has been mooted that will “ensure” that apprenticeships and vocational routes are given equal and prominent airtime as academic routes to students. The world of FE welcomed the move, Martin Doel said,

We have long been calling for an improvement to the system and welcome the changes outlined. Colleges recognise the critical nature of good careers education and will be very keen to continue to work together with their local schools. This announcement will make that a reality.

while Stephen Exley, the editor of TES Further Ed, was positively ecstatic,

It’s about time to crack open the champagne. At long last, the government is prepared to get tough on the “outdated snobbery” towards further education.

Stewart Segal of the Association of Learning and Employment providers used the historically low percentage of 16-18 year olds starting an apprenticeship as a reason to celebrate the mooted new legislation

Statutory guidance for schools followed but the fact remains that only around 6 per cent of school leavers start an apprenticeship and this proportion hasn’t changed for years. We, therefore, called for that statutory guidance to be strengthened.

only for Nick Boles to rain on that particular parade at his appearance at the sub committee hearing into CEIAG

What mystifies me about the reaction to this announcement is that this legislation already exists, and has done for a number of years, as a statutory duty on schools, that is, policies schools are already required to hold by law.

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This possibly reflects on a failure of all involved in the Careers Duty, a failure of Government strategy, of school implementation and Ofsted monitoring, that vocational providers still feel no discernible impact from it.

What difference would any new legislation take? That this “information” must be delivered to students by outside sources (e.g. FE Colleges)? As this article suggests, the age old standard of a careers fair could be the outcome most schools turn to to meet that requirement. Hardly revolutionary and without the “support and funding” that Russell Hobby calls for in that piece, unlikely to deliver the outcomes desired by the FE community.

 

Just what is the truth about the scale of school + business interaction?

Education is like all other areas of public policy in that there are always plenty of people offering plenty of solutions. As any practitioner in the field will tell you, many of those suggested solutions can take more inspiration from the ideals of the proposer rather than the actual state of affairs on the ground and, sometimes, even getting a clear enough picture of the state of affairs on the ground can be tricky enough.

With this in mind I thought it would be useful to compare and contrast five (semi) recent surveys and reports that are actually attempting to do just that in regard to the scale and scope of the links currently held between schools and the world of business. This is a hot policy potato with the Government having already prescribed the medicine with early steps of the newly formed £20m Careers Company expected in September.

So, what do we think we know:

1. REPORT: Inspiring Growth: Pearson/CBI Education & Skills Survey 2015

SCALE: “The survey was conducted online in the spring of 2015. Useable responses were received from 310 employers”

HEADLINE STATISTICS: 

The positive balance of firms expecting to need more employees with higher skills stands at +65% in 2015

55% Employers not confident of being able to recruit sufficient high-skilled employees in the future

Around two thirds (66%) of the businesses responding to this survey are involved in apprenticeships

By far the most important factors employers weigh up when recruiting school and college leavers are attitudes (85%) and aptitudes (58%). These rank well ahead of formal qualifications

A majority of businesses remain concerned about the preparation of school leavers in important areas including business and customer awareness (66%), self-management (61%) and foreign language skills (60%)

Across respondents as a whole, three quarters (73%) have at least some links with schools or colleges, with connections most widespread between businesses and secondary schools (55%) and FE colleges (53%)

The biggest obstacles to extending and deepening business involvement are uncertainty over how to make work experience worthwhile (28%), lack of interest among schools or pupils (25%) and problems in fitting involvement with the school timetable (23%)

Among employers with links to schools and colleges, the two most common forms of support are offering work experience placements (74%) and providing careers advice and talks (71%).

The overwhelming majority of employers believe the quality of careers advice for young people is not good enough (by a balance of -70%)

Nearly two thirds of businesses (60%) report that they are willing to play a greater role in supporting careers provision in schools and colleges.

SUMMARY QUOTES: 

Katja Hall – Deputy Director General CBI

“Of course, the long-term solution to the skills challenge lies in education, and some of the reforms in recent years have brought improvements. But we still have a system where too many young people are allowed to fall behind and never catch up. The system must change, with more focus on developing the aptitudes and attributes that set young people up for success in both work and life – which matter much more to employers when recruiting than academic results alone.

More and more businesses are playing their part – engaging with schools, colleges and universities and investing in workforce training – though there is a need for more. But government at all levels also needs to raise its game in helping young people to develop the higher skills and workplace readiness that are increasingly necessary to ensure a prosperous future for them and for the UK as a whole.”

COMMENT:

As you would expect from the CBI, this is a document that places high demands and expectations on the public sector while also showing its members in the private sector in the best possible light. Considering that, in England, around only 8% of employers offer apprenticeships, the fact that 66% of respondents to this survey are “involved” shows how selective the base of employers involved here was. The expectations and demands on the education sector are in many cases clear and sensible but the bemoaning of too many students not achieving C grades or above in either English or Maths shows a clear lack of understanding of how Ofqual’s comparable outcomes system works. The clear messages from the results show employers are frustrated with the overwhelming focus on qualifications to the detriment of soft skills they value even more should be very useful to add more power to the elbow of those pushing for a more rounded approach from school leaders. Also the percentage of respondents who are already involved and wish to increase their involvement in schools is very positive.

2. REPORT: Mapping careers provision in schools & colleges in England DfE July 2015 research report

SCALE: In total, there were 107 responses to the survey, a response rate of 21%. The response came from a range of providers: 34 schools with sixth forms, 34 schools without sixth forms and 39 further education providers.

HEADLINE STATISTICS:

Schools without sixth forms were more likely to offer work experience to Years 10 to 11 (88%) compared to schools with sixth forms (74%) and more colleges provided work experience to Years 12 and 13 (90%) compared to schools with sixth forms (71%)

Lecturer or industry specialist visits were more commonly used for Years 10 to 11 in schools without sixth forms (94%, versus 77% of schools with sixth forms)

The majority (88%) of respondents reported that students received skills development or employability education (e.g. time management, interview preparation) in the form of lessons/class time.

methods for contacting people who work july 2015

In terms of creating formal arrangements with employers for work experience, the response was mixed. Over half of respondents said that their institution did not have these in place (54%), with the remainder (46%) stating that they did have such arrangements with employers.

SUMMARY QUOTES:

Budget limitations were most commonly reported to be a key challenge to providing excellent careers provision that meets the needs of staff, students and parents/carers.

Nearly all institutions helped students to gain contact with employers to learn about careers/jobs. This was through a range of methods, common ones being, external employer speakers, lecturers or industry specialists visiting schools/colleges, workplace visits and work experience. These links were more likely to be offered to older year groups (Year 10 onwards). Some institutions did not use these methods at all, 13% said they did not provide workplace visits and 8% said they did not provide work experience

COMMENTS:

If the findings from the CBI data are potentially skewed by the small number of already invested respondents, then this report is even more in danger of falling into that trap. To be fair, it is something the authors are at pains to point out throughout the document,

As with any self-reported assessment, we should exercise a degree of caution as to whether the respondents would have a particularly positive or representative view of the provision within their school, since careers guidance was a significant part of their job.

Even with these dangers of too positive a response, this did not dissuade the TES in finding a negative slant in their story on it.

With these large caveats there are some positive figures, the survival of KS4 work experience surprised me and the range of employer interaction is great to see, but ultimately I am extremely hesitant about standing firm on any of the results as a stand alone piece of work.

3. REPORT: CDI Survey of Career Education and Guidance in Schools and Links with Employers May 2015

SCALE: From an online survey: “A total of 319 responses were received, which represents 10% of all secondary schools in England. Just under a half (46%) were from academies with a sixth form and a further 10% were from academies without a sixth form; 27% were from local authority maintained schools (16% with a sixth form, 11% without a sixth form); eight percent of the responses were from independent schools. The remaining responses came from special schools (5), sixth form colleges (5), UTCs (3) and a studio school, free schools (2) and a pupil referral unit.”

Although some questions did have a large percentage of non responses.

HEADLINE STATISTICS:

24% of respondents used a member of staff, more often someone who was not a teacher. Five schools responded to say that they did not provide access to impartial career guidance and a further 24% of respondents skipped this question in the survey.

66% of respondents reported that the person providing impartial career guidance held a recognised professional qualification in career guidance, but in only 57% of cases was the qualification at QCF Level 6 or above

17% of all respondents used a local or regional education-business partnership (EBP) to help broker links with employers and 32% used Inspiring the Future or other link organisations.Over 40% of respondents said they organised all the links themselves, and 35% omitted to respond to the question.

In 56% of respondents a member of the senior leadership group had overall responsibility for career education and guidance but in only 35% was there a senior leader with overall responsibility for school-business links.

37% of respondents reported having a link governor for careers and employer links.

SUMMARY QUOTES:

From the press release:

Worryingly, the survey indicates that now career education is no longer compulsory, up to a third of schools have dropped it from the curriculum, and a larger proportion have no career education in the early years of secondary education

Many, but by no means all, schools are making impartial career guidance available to at least those students identified as needing support but in over 40% of the schools that responded to the survey the interviews are not provided by an adviser qualified to Level 6.

Schools are providing a wide range of employer activities but many would welcome more support with identifying relevant contacts and organising activities.

COMMENTS:

Like Report number 2, this includes responses from only the education side of the fence but still strikes a better balance between highlighting some positive work (the range of employer interaction) and voicing concerns about the outcomes that they disapprove of (the falling amount of dedicated careers education time and the number of practitioners not qualified to Level 6 standard). The high percentage of non responses to some questions does cause me to pause though. It is a natural tendency to assume that a lack of a submitted answer means the respondent did not want to include a negative truth but as the aims of the survey are to, “inform the work of the new independent careers and enterprise company recently established by the Department for Education (DfE) as it prepares its initial work plan” getting this right is a must. The Careers Company has the relatively meager budget of £20m to make an impact and allocating its resources should rely on more than assumptions. Again, like Report 2, the results are better placed as part of a wider context.

4. REPORT: Understanding the link between employers and schools and the role of the National Careers Service – BiS December 2014

SCALE: Survey data were collected from 301 employers and from 98 educational establishments (78 schools and 20 colleges). Whilst the sampling was not representative, data provide vivid indications of patterns and trends illustrative of the types of interactions currently existing between schools and employers. Survey data were supplemented by in-depth interviews with career representatives in 12 schools/colleges selected from the survey sample. Additionally, six case studies were undertaken on schools/colleges from the sample of 12 to provide detailed examples of good practice

HEADLINE STATISTICS:

employer engagement bis report Dec 2014

school engagement with employers Dec 2014

SUMMARY QUOTES:

Of all employers surveyed, nearly half had previously been engaged with schools/ colleges. Employers who offered apprenticeship or other types of training to young people were more likely to engage with schools/colleges and there is some evidence that larger companies were more likely to engage with schools/colleges than smaller companies. The most frequently mentioned types of engagement were work experience and/or visits from school or college students. Altruistic reasons were the most important for engaging with schools/colleges, with employers thinking that it was a ‘good thing to do’, and/or that it facilitated local community engagement.

More than half of all engaged employers had undertaken some type of activity in the last half-year. Main reasons for a lack of more regular engagement were threefold: lack of time and resources; unwillingness of schools (unable or not interested); and the age restriction preventing employment of staff under the age of 18 years. Approximately half of all engaged employers indicated that these activities had not had any benefit to their business.

Approximately half of all employers surveyed had never engaged with schools or colleges. Nearly all indicated that they were not interested in linking with schools or colleges in the future, because of lack of time and resources; financial reasons, and/or barriers created by health and safety and insurance regulations. Some stated that they could not see any potential benefit to their businesses of this activity.

COMMENTS:

So we come to the only survey whose methodology tasked it with gaining views from both sides of the conundrum. The mix of survey and interview results allows for both some headline percentages and some longer form answers to emerge across the reports 140 (!) pages. The most striking aspect of the findings is how well they agree with the answers from one side (education) and much they disagree with the results from the other (business). It would seem that asking CEIAG folk in schools gets you a pretty positive picture about the work they do. Who would guess? On the other hand, the large disparity between the amount of employers involved in engagement activities (and those wanting to be involved) in these findings and the CBI results is noticeable. From a similar number of employers, the differences are pretty big; the CBI says 74% offered work experience while here only 32%, the CBI says 71% had performed careers talks while here the figure is a measly 7%.

5. REPORT: UK Commission’s Employer Skills Survey 2013: UK Results – January 2014

SCALE: Fieldwork for the core survey was undertaken between March and July 2013, and involved over 91,000 interviews. Fieldwork for the follow-up Investment in Training Survey was undertaken in May to July 2013, and involved more than 13,000 interviews with employers who had taken part in the first survey. An overall response rate of 44 per cent was achieved for the core survey.

HEADLINE STATISTICS/SUMMARY QUOTES:

The main obstacle to (more) young people getting new jobs is competition in the market place. Half of recruiting employers who had not recruited young job applicants had opted instead for older candidates who were better placed; in this instance young people who applied for these jobs may have been suitable, but the recruiters opted for a candidate over the age of 25 to fill the role. Where young applicants were not considered to meet the requirements of the role, the main reasons cited were lack of skills and experience, and sometimes both. Three in five recruiting employers (61 per cent) who had not recruited a young person said they had had no applications from young people.

Most employers find the education leavers they take on to be well or very well prepared for work, although as many as four in ten employers taking on school leavers at 16 from schools in England, Northern Ireland or Wales described the recruits as poorly prepared

Where employers considered young applicants not to meet requirements, the majority (63 per cent) said they lacked the necessary skills and 61 per cent relevant work experience. Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) said they lacked both.

COMMENTS: 

This is a huge piece of work and covers a much wider remit than just school/employer interaction which is why the Executive Summary is such a godsend. It is the oldest of the reports as the scale of the survey means it is only carried out every two years and data is currently being collected for the next one.

What it does add to this post though is a scale of respondents not seen in all of the other reports and a divergent view. The much more positive view (still with room for improvements) of the employability skills of young people from employers is at odds with the more downbeat findings of the CBI. The context around these findings and the steps that should be taken to improve the chances of young people finding work were covered brilliantly in this blog at the time. If it’s work experience they lack, offer young people the chance to gain it. As we’ve seen, the CBI says the business community is doing this, the education community and the report from BiS seem less convinced.

OVERALL:

As I hope you’ve seen, finding the balance of truth in all of this is tricky. Out of five reports, only one bridges the divide between employers and schools and spoke to both sides of the fence. Where only one side was consulted, the simplistic take is that the home view is always that most things are rosey and there is plenty of goodwill to find further improvements. Of course it’s not that simple, the CDI report is not afraid to point out where it thinks schools are failing and the CBI report consistently says that businesses should be doing more to work with education. Perhaps though the lesson for policy makers should be that, when making policy decisions in this area in future, they should be more demanding for data work that bridges the divide and takes views from a balance across both sides of the employers/schools fence.

The March 2015 careers guidance update: Scrat gets his nut

In what is now becoming an annual event, last week saw the publication of the update to the Careers Statutory Guidance for schools. It’s now three academic years in a row that has seen updated Guidance released and, each year, the document has become more detailed in its outline and expectations of what quality careers provision should look like in England’s schools.

I’ve always felt that the first iteration of this document did a middling job as guidance goes while last year’s was much clearer and really left no room for school leaders to claim ignorance when offering reasons for their lack of support for CEIAG. In fact, the DfE picked up on my saying so and used it as a defence for sticking to their guidance guns when pressed by the Education Select Committee.

As I’ve acknowledged though, that view seemed to be against the grain as there seemed to be many knowledgeable voices who were deeply unsatisfied with the previous documents and bemoaned the lack of clarity over the must/should usage, the lack of priority given to securing face to face guidance from qualified professionals and the absence of a recommendation for schools to achieve some form of Quality Mark.

This latest publication should then satisfy some of those criticisms as it contains many strengthened references to including qualified face to face guidance and achieving Quality Marks. As a result the initial reaction has been noticeably warmer and welcoming.

That it’s taken a whole term of Government and a change of Secretary of State to release a document in the last week before purdah that professional bodies have at least faintly praised shouldn’t be forgotten but this is a comparatively small point to the larger one to make.

Which is the ongoing background story:

Running a CEIAG program is, like many other parts of school provision, not a cheap enterprise as so minutely documented by the Gatsby report that costed an average program at £44,676 per academic year. You can add another £1800 to that for undertaking a Careers Mark award.

In my posts here I’ve always tried to look beyond my own experience and try to link to wider evidence as often as possible but in making my point here I can’t get away from my own patch. This year there are three items that have cost the school money for a CEIAG program; my wage, a work experience contract with an EBP and a photocopying budget. Trips to Universities and employers happen in my car, trips to Colleges are organised so we meet the students there, a local College paid for our coach to the Skills Show, we’ve had EBP/National Careers funding for a Future First subscription, work experience diaries come from Barclays, lesson resources come from free websites, all our visitors are volunteers, our LEP has financed a careers speed dating event. Anything at all that costs is a non starter. Next year we’re not buying in a Careers Adviser from the Local Authority with the plan that increasing my (Level 6 qualified) face to face offer, a range of activities and visitors and the fact we don’t have a Sixth Form will enable us to meet the “impartiality” standard in the guidance. And, I would consider us a school that doesn’t have it really bad. I’ve had access to training and huge amounts of support from Senior Leaders. We are fortunate enough to currently have a fantastic new building being erected under the Priority School Building Program and, over time, are due to increase our intake numbers to 1400. Meanwhile, many schools are looking at their teaching and support staff and looking for ways to lower costs. And, this is before an election after which, no matter the rhetoric, significant further cuts will arrive (the larger academy chains know this and, to protect themselves as best they can against the coming drought, are looking to lever their brand to access private donors). This will not be in any way good for CEIAG.

In such a climate, even contemplating a Quality Award is a silly notion. It’s the furthest thing from my agenda for the next academic year. The final sentence of the CDI response to the new guidance pays the smallest heed to this mess in what is surely a case of putting the cart before the horse

Access to development funding to help schools build their capacity to take on the statutory duty would really help to ensure that all young people had access to the high quality careers support they both need and deserve.

As Deirdre Hughes writes,

Let’s hope the Government’s ring-fenced investment for careers work to reach more young people becomes a reality sooner rather than later.

Otherwise, we’ll soon find ourselves in a situation akin to that little critter in the Ice Age movies; while great time, effort and perseverance has been spent on the small prize of the nut of persuading officials to change some wording in a Guidance document, around us the glacier has been cracking.