national careers service

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.

 

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CEC annual accounts 2017

careers_logo

Since the dissolution of the Connexions framework for delivering CEIAG across England, the placing of the statutory duty upon schools to provide this provision and the establishment of the Careers & Enterprise Company to oversee this area of policy, the hardest thing to track and keep an accountable comparison record of has been the amount of public funds allocated by Government.

At the time of its passing, the annual £200m of funding that Connexions received was much used to highlight just how big of change was being planned by the then Government. Asking schools to fulfill the same level of provision while only retaining a £4.7m web and phone National Careers Service out of the Connexions pot was always going to be a test for resource levels.

The establishment of the Careers & Enterprise Company came with a slew of funding stream promises which were difficult to disentangle to find the overall package worth. Announcements in the budget gave (in political lingo) the spending envelope but, still, left out the detail for how the pie was to be split. It was also worth remembering during the period that the CEC was originally floated it was allocated a £20m start up pot but that it would then be fully employer funded.

Another piece of the jigsaw to complete the funding picture was filed in November 2017 as the Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year ended March 2017 for the CEC were filed at Companies House.

The audited accounts show that for the financial year ending March 2017, the CEC’s income rose to £14,732,430 from £6,204,509 the previous year and that this sum came solely from a Government grant for both years. For 16/17 this is actually less than the £19.5m set aside by the Government for the CEC but the “resource expenditure” was lower than expected.

The CEC is leasing its Clerkenwell Green offices no more than a year in advance (future lease commitments page 19).

The Statement also details that the number of staff is now up to 24 from 9 in 2016 as the Company has expanded its research and outreach teams (page 15). The wage bill of £1,335,319 means that the average salary for a CEC employee is a little over £55,000. Enterprise Coordinators will not be included in this as, I think, their wages come from the Local Enterprise Partnerships.

Elsewhere in the document, the Strategic and Directors reports outline the CEC plans and goals including it’s “ambition..to bring together the best technology to create a digital system for careers and enterprise activity” or Lord Young’s long mooted Enterprise Passport. Lord Young himself is a Director of the CEC and was one of the three on the Incorporation of “Enterprise for Education Ltd” as the organisation was originally named. £11m external funding has been “secured” for the Investment Funds program of researched provision while page 2 also boasts of another £15m of external funding being “leveraged” to “increase investment in the system.” These could also be public funds from Government or bodies such as LEPS.

Page 2 confirms that the CEC has been funded by the Government for 17/18.

As you can see, even with an end of financial year statement, finding a total amount of public funding being spent on CEIAG provision isn’t easy. Add to the sums mentioned in this document can be the funding for the National Careers Service, the Job Centre Plus work in schools, branding and promotion schemes such as YourLife or the Year of Engineering 2018 and you have a multitude of funding streams with changeable annual budgets. These type of documents are important though for they detail the actual expenditure of the CEC and not the canny accounting which can conjure up the figures in politicians speeches.

 

 

 

 

 

The demise of Plotr and what free online CEIAG diagnostic tools are left

With news that the Plotr website is finally shutting down and merging with Start Profile (itself a brand of U-Explore) I thought I would give a rundown on the variety of free online CEIAG diagnostic tools available and see if readers have their own links and views to share.

Plotr came onto the scene back in 2012 with the backing of the then Skills Minister, Matthew Hancock who considered it as

an excellent example of employers coming together, to create an innovative website allowing young people to really understand what employers offer

Others in the Careers community were not so sure as the new website received significant financial backing from central Government with an initial £700,000 from the Cabinet Office and the (then) Department for Business Innovation and Skills

and launched without public tender or consultation from the sector bodies. I remember from conversations at the time, Careers colleagues were distinctly unimpressed with the lack of co-ordination with professional or non-profit organisations that were already working in the space and the fact that the first CEO, Andrew Thompson, was a Director at the then Government’s favoured outsourcing firm Serco did not sit well.

In 2014 another £1.3m was injected by BIS for a revamp which included the diagnostic tool “The Game.” This was an exhaustive set of questions based on psychometric research that suggested job roles to the skills and abilities suited to the young person answering the questions. As a CEIAG tool it wasn’t great but it was free and, with a lot of assistance, you could get results out of it to talk through with a young person.

The company behind the site actually went into liquidation back in October 2016 and the obituaries for it written at the time weren’t pretty. As the Buzzfeed report details, the significant taxpayer investment did not produce anything like the engagement or traffic statistics from its target audience hoped for so the initial employer buy-in soon frizzled out.

Which all leaves Careers practitioners with what available free diagnostic resources to use?

Start Profile

After registering, students can access 4 areas (My Skills, My Interests, My Qualities & My Work Preferences) to enter their responses. This information is then used to suggest courses, qualifications, study locations and jobs that might fit.

start profile

Requiring students to register before using the site has its positives and negatives. As a practitioner, you can register and then monitor your students work but the sheer faff of getting a class or even individuals to sign up and then check their email account for confirmations is off-putting. Students can also search by Job Sectors. It’s cleanly laid out as a site that seems easily navigable to me, the job suggestions make sense from the information inputted and, with a cursory tour, the course information at providers seems up to date.

National Careers Service Skills Health Check

Still hosted on the plain .GOV.UK platform, the National Careers Service website is a sorry state these days. The Skills Health Section is not a tool I would advise for use for young people, it’s simply too exhaustive. Adult clients of mine have used it and found useful feedback in the Skills Report produced once the numerous question sections are completed but to complete the entire check requires a significant time commitment.

skills health check

It is not something I would suggest that could be completed in a session with a client, they would need to complete this in their own time for a discussion of the findings to take place at a later date.

The Skills Report suggests job areas that may be of interest which you can then click-through to the National Careers Service Job Profiles to further explore. The results of the Activity Skills sections can need some tact when discussing with clients who find those academic tasks more difficult.

ICould Buzz Quiz

At the opposite end of the time commitment needs is the ICould Buzz Quiz. This is a quick set of either/or questions that then suggests jobs through the bank of videos on the site and assigns the user a personality type.

icould

I have found the quick questions, videos and fun outlines of the personality types extremely successful when working with Key Stage 3 children or those with Special Educational Needs. Some of the skill terminology can need explaining to young ears (a “cold” personality doesn’t mean you’re always shivering) but these discussions can be beneficial in identifying skills and descriptive language. The lack of information inputted by the user though can be an issue, some of the suggested jobs can seem quite random and not allied to the interests of the young person at all. This can cause them to lose faith in the whole exercise so caution is advised. When leading groups, headphones are also required.

Prospects Job Match

Still in beta testing mode, this Prospects offer can be attempted without registering but the later stages of the job recommendations are only accessible after signing up. After 26 questions which are very on the nose (“Do you understand the law?”) and use language aimed at the graduate target market of the site, the user’s skill set is matched against job families. The user can then click-through to the recommended job profiles. I personally find the job profiles section excellent and use it regularly in one to one sessions, each profile has comprehensive and clearly written information on the skills required and duties likely to be encountered as well as the qualifications required. The links to associated job boards or industry organisations are also extremely useful and have broadened my bookmarks of useful sites to use with clients.

prospects

 

Pearson Career Interests Quiz

Similar to a section of the now defunct Plotr Game, the user is asked to rate duties in order of preference or select their top three most appealing tasks from a list. The questions are easy to understand and a typical student could rattle through them in 15 minutes. Some of questions require the statements to be moved into priority order and the design is all very intuitive. On completion of the questions, users are shown a sector matching chart

pearson

in which users can click on the sectors to encourage skill comparison but actual job titles or profiles are not then mentioned. Job profiles are held elsewhere on the site so why this connection is not made is strange and a real negative. Young people need to see what job titles fall into what sectors to begin to make connections between them and investigate what those jobs are, not making this link explicit is odd.

Skills Route Explore

Asks users to enter courses they are studying and suggests jobs associated with that course

skills explorer

so it’s fairly reductive and is not good at highlighting transferable skills. The job profiles then linked through as also fairly basic with little in the way of description that would help a young person understand what was involved. The charts showing the likelihood of automation, job satisfaction and wage are neat ideas but the job satisfaction one especially needs context as the average for all jobs is only 32% (it seems the data these charts is based upon asked a lot of unhappy people at work!).

Diagnostic tools are useful conversation starters when dealing with younger clients or those considering a complete career change and the more options you have to use in your toolbox, the more likely you are to use the right one for the right client. If there are any I’ve missed, please link in the comments below and let me know what you think about it!

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.

More Careers inquiry fandango

Recent weeks have seen not one but two sessions on CEIAG held by the joint Education & Business sub-committee. In fact, due to Ministerial illness, a third is soon to come. What a time to be alive.

The first session, with witnesses from the CDI, Careers England, AELP and the West Midlands LEP, was not broadcast as it was held away from the Westminster estate so only a written record has been published while the second session, with witnesses from the Careers Enterprise Company, the National Careers Service and Ofsted, is online for your viewing pleasure.

Across these two sessions there’s a couple of things which peaked my interest.

  1. The CDI are treading very carefully around the funding issue

Suggesting that HE Widening Participation funds be funneled off to help fund careers support might be an idea with merit and fit as a solution to the dropout data but asking funding to be directed from another strand of the social mobility levers isn’t without downsides. Careers work with young people is something that a Government should see as a stand alone good and fund as such. In the current climate, asking Government for cash is a sure fire way to be swiftly shown the meeting room exit door which makes persuasion harder but it shouldn’t be dodged because of this.

The confusion over strategic funding ideals and what this funding gets spent on (see point 5) is also exacerbated by the strong call from all witnesses for Careers Quality Marks to be an integral part of any recommendations put forward by the Committee. This would come with a significant cost for schools currently under huge financial pressure (plus the forthcoming evidence toolkit will surely weaken the argument for quality awards even further, but that’s another blog). The issue of funding needs a joined up message from the CDI and not left to other unions.

2. The National Careers Service offer for young people isn’t being held to account 

Around the 16.30pm mark Joe Billington, the Director of the National Careers Service, is asked how many young people have used the phone service but the conversation is diverted and the answer never comes. The most recent data shows that just 4% of the 25,000 telephone users of the service were 19 or under (page 19). That isn’t enough.

3. Generally, the MPs didn’t seem very well briefed

Around the 16.38pm mark, a number of the MP’s seem shocked to learn that a wealth of data on skills mismatches and employer views on the employability of young people was already readily available even before the Careers Enterprise Company used it to form their “cold spots” map. Both the UKCES Employer Perspectives survey and the annual Employer Skills survey have this information in droves. That these MPs, on this specific sub-committee, looking at this specific issue, were not aware of this is baffling. Amanda Milling MP then goes onto ask about the interaction between business and schools, it’s true that a lot has been published on this subject but, at the very least, could she not be aware of the work from the department she is meant to be scrutinising?

4. Relying on Ofsted to be the all knowing overseer of careers work in schools is a busted flush

They don’t have the time, the capacity nor the inspection framework to do it. It isn’t happening on the scale it needs to now and, with the ongoing move to a school lead system and a new Chief Inspector to be appointed, won’t in the future.

5. This is a lot of strategic stuff without asking, “Day to day, who’s talking to young people?”

For all of this talk about “umbrella” organisations, Quality Marks and websites not a lot of time or attention seems to be focused on who is actually going to enabling this provision for and with young people. To their credit, the CDI are clear in their expectation of suitable CPD and qualification status for professionals and the work of the Careers Enterprise company will help provision levels. Helping schools focus on, fund and find time for careers work to happen seems to be the roll your sleeves up work though nobody wants to roll their sleeves up for.

Side note – If I was a tinfoil hat wearing type I would also note that, last year, the revamped careers duty for schools was released on the 25th March and the Guidance the year before that on April 14. Postponing the Ministerial witness session to beyond those dates this year could allow them to appear in front of the Committee with a new document to offer.

 

My stab in the dark at where that £70m is going

Politicians have many tricks up their sleeves, one of which David Cameron recently deployed in a speech more widely about life chances but in a section about launching a mentoring scheme aimed at students “at risk of underachieving or dropping out.”

The trick is in the section below:

mentoring1

AKA Announce one initiative, then mention a large amount of funding that isn’t just for that one initiative.

“We’ll direct £70 million towards careers in this Parliament

If we take that to mean ‘youth’ careers services (the accompanying press release elaborates “government will spend £70 million on its strategy to improve careers education and guidance in this Parliament”) then the announced mentoring scheme is only a tiny, tiny percentage of that money.

Before we do the math, let’s remember as well that “in this Parliament” now means by statute, a period of 5 years.

Last financial year, the young people’s helpline section of the National Careers Service cost £3,369,000. (x5 = £16,845,000) The financial year before this cost £4.165m so funding there is falling.

mentoring2

 

The Careers & Enterprise Company was established with a one off £20m investment with the hope that employers would pay for it in future years.

We know the Government also funds advice channels such as YourLife, Big Bang Fairs and others. The 14/15 cost for all of those initiatives was £7.85m. If they were to be continued over 5 years that’s £39,250,000 (which means they won’t be on that scale).

Without taking into account future cuts to those figures (and there will be, the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills has to cut £2.4bn before 2020), that takes the total to over £80m already.

We also know that trials are currently being run by Job Centre Plus in schools. I’ve been unable to find a cost for this trial but I would assume that will be funded by the Department for Work and Pensions so might not be included in Cameron’s headline figure. Likewise the funding for the Skills Show is from the European Social Fund so comes from a wholly different pot.

Even with that rough and ready maths, you can see how quickly the figure of £70m is soon soaked up by current commitments without nary a penny thrown in the direction of a mentoring scheme.

 

A Journey into LMI lesson plans

Being sent out to schools at the moment are the lesson plans below. “A Journey into LMI” are lesson plans from the National Careers Service and are part of the Service’s remit to engage with younger learners. Back in October 2014 Nick Boles announced that all National Careers Service contracts were being amended to include a 5% spend on young people. Whether through online resources meant to engage directly young people or through resources for teachers and advisers to use, these are some of the results of that funding.

As part of a wider drive to improve the awareness of labour market intelligence, the site also has an LMI area map and each LEP area should be sending out an LMI newsletter. The sign up for the update for my own area (SEMLEP) is here.

My local contract holder has also trailed the possibility of some actual activities happening but, by the time the representative came to talk to school careers advisers in my town, we were told the funding pot for these activities had already been exhausted.