A criticism leveled at CEIAG and the wider employability provision of schools has always been that Labour Market Intelligence (LMI) is not utilised to it’s fullest effect when designing curriculum and qualification pathways or to guide young people towards aspiring to career areas and gaining relevant skills for roles with staffing supply needs. Employers and their representatives regularly complain that too many young people aim for careers in over represented areas thus leaving corners of the labour market bereft of attention due to their less than appealing perception (care work) or their rigorous subject matter (STEM work). The Head of Ofsted is fond of a critical trope against Further Education Colleges for selfishly enrolling too many students on Performing Arts or Media courses (despite high employment of FE graduates in careers outside of their study area).
The expectation is that LMI should play a vital part in quality school and college CEIAG provision and those institutions should wield LMI to specifically steer young people (and their parents and guardians) towards career areas with a higher staffing volume demand and away from areas with lower demand. Guidance demands this of schools and colleges.
The wish for LMI to be utilised with these goals in mind can have many beneficial outcomes such as breaking down barriers and stereotypical thinking around certain careers and even, perhaps, spur on those who down want to work in highly sort after industries such as media or sports to strive harder to achieve their goals so the positives are there to be gained.
The problem with LMI though is that it is changeable. Data on pay, numbers of vacancies, location of vacancies, required entry qualification levels and many other data points all move with the times and this can cause headaches for policy makers and lay bare inconsistencies in approaches to CEIAG.
This is apparent in the way IAG on apprenticeships is treated. Apprenticeship starts are falling
and the numbers of young people starting them have been significantly affected.
there are varied reasons for this but a substantive factor seems to be that, in an employer lead system, employers have taken the decision to fund older workers on higher level courses to the detriment of school leavers.
Following the commencement of the levy, there has also been a decisive shift from lower to higher levels of training. The proportion of training at Level 2 (equivalent to GCSEs) has fallen by around 15 percentage points, whereas training at Levels 4 to 7 (equivalent to the first year of university up to Masters level) has grown by 9 percentage points. These trends are even more pronounced for levy-paying employers. Higher-level apprenticeships are typically more expensive to deliver, which has obvious implications for the financial viability of the levy both now and in future.
In addition, the levy appears to have affected the age of those who start an apprenticeship. Since the levy began in 2017, there has been a drop of 5 percentage points in the proportion of young people starting an apprenticeship as older (and often more experienced) workers are attracting more of the funding. Over the last two years, 66 per cent of higher-level apprenticeships have been started by workers aged 25 and over. The latest data also shows that 46 per cent of ‘apprentices’ have been with their employer for at least six months before they started their training. In other words, the bulk of the levy is being spent on existing adult workers instead of supporting young people into the workplace.
This quickly leads to a branding problem as the actual reality of an apprenticeship is far removed from what the public perception of an apprenticeship is thus storing up disappointment and disillusionment when the reality becomes apparent.
Despite the low vacancy and hiring data, schools are still tasked with offering IAG to all students about apprenticeships. This is enforced to such a degree that they are written to to remind them of their obligations which, in this era of academisation, is a strong rebuff from a stand-offish DfE. This though is still not enough for those keen to promote apprenticeships. Advocates bemoan surveys that show 11% of 15-18 years olds are advised to pursue an apprenticeship
despite the fact that this more than double the percentage of school leavers progressing into apprenticeships. We no longer know how many young people are actually applying for apprenticeships through Find An Apprenticeship as the DfE no longer publish this data.
This leads me to ask why is the expectation of the use of LMI different here? Why are educators meant to put aside the LMI suggesting that apprenticeships are highly competitive, highly sought after and young people will find it hard to secure one against their more experienced competitors but then also declare loudly that LMI shows that media and arts careers are hard to get into? If we are tasked with using LMI to design curriculum and skills needs than surely we must take these signals from business that apprenticeships for young people are subservient to up-skilling older workers. If we are tasked with using LMI to inform career education and guidance and, in turn, young people and parental decision making, then we surely must be comfortable doing that for all routes and sectors even if it means injecting some reality into IAG on apprenticeships.