gatsby benchmarks

The importance of trust

Working with young people (and their parents, but more on that later) as a Careers Adviser/Leader often means assisting them as they traverse points of transition. Be it across key stages, subject changes, institution changes or into a whole new sectors of the labour market, CEIAG practitioners are often the face of the possibilities on offer in the preparation phase of a transition. For the young person this often mean moving from a place of comfort where the rules and expectations (and short cuts) are known and familiar and into a space with new rules, new people and new codes of expected behaviour.

This is where “trust” becomes a vital factor. If the CEIAG practitioner is valued by the young person as a “trusted” source then the preparation work can aid the transition from the initial considerations, research through to choices and decision to overcome the worry of uncertainty. That is why this graphic

is so applicable to CEIAG work with young people and one that I’ve thought about following a few recent CEIAG news events.

A number of recent surveys clearly reported just how much influence parents/guardians have over the career and transition decisions of young people despite their lack of current knowledge of educational pathways and up to date labour market information.

For CEIAG practitioners working in schools, the message here is that the practitioner should be positioning themselves as a “trusted” source to both parents and young people.

That requires time and work in building relationships. At the recent Education Select Committee, Ian Mearns reiterated his belief that Careers Advisers from outside schools were best placed to ensure impartiality when offering IAG to young people as the incentives to keep learners within organisations are simply too strong. To back himself, he referred to recent Careers & Enterprise data that shows that seems to indicate that schools with Sixth Forms offer weaker Careers provision to their learners. What this model of IAG finds more challenging to achieve than in-house Advisers though is the time and presence required to build relationships and so the “trust” needed to actually impact young people and parents/guardians decision-making.

We all know the worth of the Gatsby benchmarks but one of the most significant indicators of the impact a school’s CEIAG programme is the amount of trust the parents and pupils have in their Careers Leader.

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The Careers Leader Handbook review

clhcover2

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

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

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

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

Sections

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

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

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

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

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

Criticisms

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

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

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

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

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

Is it worth my (school’s) cash?

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

The calls for a “UCAS – Apprenticeships” portal

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

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

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

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

While the Social Mobility Commission under Alan Milburn called for

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Timing and deadlines

Employers can hire apprenticeships throughout the year

apprenticeship starts sept 2018

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

2. Employer control over applications

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

Such as this mock application

or require applicants to apply through their own website

site management apprenticeship

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

3. Age of applicants & references

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

ucas stats

This is not true of those starting apprenticeships

apprenticeship starts

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

4. Numbers of applicants

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

5. Differences between Find An Apprenticeship

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

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

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

 

 

Our Further Education Careers Programme Statement

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

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

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

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

Our Sixth Form College site

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

and our dedicated Student Services site

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

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

fe careers guidance

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

Live-streaming Employer Engagement activities

The rise of the student focused webinar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Convenience or Impact

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

 

 

February 2018 Careers Guidance for FE & Sixth Form Colleges

The final chapter in a slew of recently published careers guidance documents and reports is a pair of publications focusing on CEIAG provision in FE & Sixth Form Colleges in England.

Coming after the Careers Strategy, the Gatsby benchmarks for schools, the Statutory schools Guidance and it’s sister document Good Career Guidance Benchmarks for Young People in Colleges, Careers Guidance: Guidance for further education colleges and sixth form colleges, it’s important to note, is not a Statutory document for the Further Education Sector. The exempt charitable status of many of the providers in the sector does not allow for such diktats. Where the leverage comes from for the compliance with the standards and expectations set out in the document are the clear warnings that failure to adhere could result in the withdrawal of ESFA grant funding (which would be a major decision to take).

Following from their work on school CEIAG standards which was well received by both practitioners and policy markers, Gatsby again supply the backbone of the standards document. In this instance though a critical piece of work is missing which then damages confidence in all that follows. The original Gatsby report used a number of sources to build their recommended standards. As well as looking at provision in other countries, reviewing research and interviewing stakeholders, the Foundation also commissioned PWC to figure how much this would cost an average school. For the College document, conversations with Colleges seem to have happened but no specific costing documents have been published. This missing building block means that the recommended standards of provision that follow ring a little hollow, especially in the sector of education that has a building consensus of agreement in its underfunding.

The guidance in the document itself falls into three categories:

  1. Provision that makes perfect sense
  2. Provision that makes perfect sense but is going to need a lot more resource
  3. The Brexit Unicorn is riding into town before this happens

Provision that makes perfect sense

Much does. Asking every College to have a “Careers Leader” to mirror the forthcoming role in schools means that each Post 16 provider can still tailor their student service offer but ensures that a named individual is responsible. An embedded programme of CEIAG that is reviewed regularly, that keeps learner records of interactions and challenges stereotypical thinking would please all practitioners. It’s good to see destinations data achieve clear priority and the requirement for employer interactions is only sensible considering the relevant research and the entire remit of most Further Education provision. Asking for clear links between Careers Leaders and SEN provision at previous stages of the learners journey is welcome. Building the work of the CEC into Post 16 Careers work, after the work of the Local Area Reviews, continues the link to local labour market demand. Finally, the clear recommendation for guidance interviews to be conducted by Level 6 and above qualified advisers is a clear signpost for dedicated student support teams in Post 16 provision rather than “one stop shop” offers.

Provision that makes perfect sense by is going to need a lot more resource

As the forthcoming T Levels will also demand, ensuring that work experience is a standard component of a study programme is a desirable outcome but one which will require a lot more opportunities for work experience placements.

Expanding the remit of the CEC to enable Colleges and schools to meet all of the Benchmarks across both Guidance documents is sensible but, I’m sure Enterprise Co-ordaintors would agree, they would need more support than just new provision mapping tools to achieve this. A release of a College specific Compass tool in September 2018 is welcome but will not be near enough.

The Brexit Unicorn rides into town

Benchmark 8 is the steepest mountain to climb. It requires that every 16-18 learner has at least one guidance interview before the end of the course. This would be a huge demand on staffing levels across many Colleges. I think that, comparably my own College is well staffed. We have 4 Advisers (including myself) and part-time resource support working across 3 larger sites and another 4 satellite sites. Approximately 4000 Post 16 learners study across the full spectrum of post 16 provision. We strive to make our service as accessible as possible but it would be true that if all of these learners were to take up a full guidance interview then our work with Adult learners, part-time learners and the community will be impacted. Achieving this benchmark would require a fundamental expansion of our staffing levels and, I suspect, the vast majority of Post 16 provision would have to invest from a lower base .

Another requirement that, I think, is pie in the sky is the Benchmark 3 guidance that

records of advice given should be integrated with those given at the previous stage of the learner’s education (including their secondary school) where these are made available

I just can’t foresee standard practice across the country of Careers Leaders in secondary schools getting permission from pupils and then sharing guidance records of all students to all of their destinations. It might happen in pockets across MATs or school to adjoined or local Sixth Form transitions but not to Further Education Colleges.

Post 16 careers provision is a different, more varied beast than provision in secondary schools. The landscape of curriculum, qualification and delivery are all more diverse meaning that the journey and destinations are also wider. This means challenges for any standardization guidance but one that would really want to make a change would be a project that took upon itself the, admittedly considerable, work of finding out how much this would all cost separate from the previous school costings.