opportunity areas

The CEC Implementation & Careers Hub Plans

When it finally came, the Careers Strategy placed a lot of emphasis on the work of the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) so far and even increased the scope of the organisations work in the future. Alongside the actual implementation responsibilities of schools, practitioners and other stakeholders, the CEC was tasked with a broader range of targets and policies beyond increasing employer engagement which had been it’s main remit up until now. These extra strands of provision for the CEC to coordinate show that the organisation is consolidating it’s position as the Government’s core organising force across careers policy for young people in England.

The Strategy set out that through to 2020 the CEC would oversee

  • schools and Colleges wider Careers provision across all of the Gatsby benchmarks
  • a £5m investment fund for careers provision for disadvantaged pupils
  • the collaborative discussion to define the Careers Leader role
  • the £4m funding pot for the training programme for around 500 Careers Leaders
  • to initiate and support 20 Careers Hubs across the country with another £5m pot of funding
  • Triple their “Cornerstone” employer contacts to 150
  • link every school and college with an Enterprise Adviser and boost the number of employer encounters to at least one a year from years 7 to 13

This will be a significant expansion both in responsibilities and the staffing needed to meet them for the CEC.

Soon (March 9th 2018) after the publication of the Strategy, the CEC responded with a (draft) Implementation Plan that set out how they would achieve and measure achievement of those policy actions. The draft plan states that

  • the £5m investment fund will be split with £2.5m directed towards increasing employer encounters and the other £2.5m invested into funding and testing personal guidance models
  • the £4m Careers Leader training funds will be open to schools who are members of the new Career Hubs but also not in Career Hubs

and also asked for submissions of feedback. The final version was released 9th April 2018 with a few cosmetic changes and some additional photographs but only the following substantive alterations to the text

Final version:

  • Acknowledges that Careers Hubs should not replicate local networks “Where other local structures are already established, we will look to engage these networks to avoid duplication and coordinate effort”
  • Allocates around £1000 central Hub fund per school for activities
  • Includes the need to collaborate with experts in STEM & SEND when learning from pilots
  • Includes the need to encompass existing quality measures in outcome research such as the Matrix Standard and Careers Quality Awards
  • promises the inclusion of the CDI Framework of Learning Outcomes when looking at an individuals outcomes when measuring impact

So whatever submissions were made only asked for or gained small-scale changes. We do know that Careers England submitted a response which I felt was measured in its welcoming tone for much of the plan but also asked the most pertinent question regarding whether the funding available is sufficient to meet the high aspirations of the Plan.

Careers Hubs

Alongside the Final Plan were published the details on the Career Hubs policy including the prospectus for interested collaborative groups to apply. A Careers Hub is essentially the CEC version of a middle tier now represented by Regional School Commissioners in the world of academy management. In 2014 the DfE realised that it could not possibly performance manage the huge number of academies in the English system from a central organisation so inserted a layer of middle tier accountability and guidance into a system not well designed to accommodate it. It seems that the CEC has learnt from this and, after first running the North East LEP pilot scheme, are building a structure to encourage growth in quality and accountability first rather than merely hoping sporadic support would see a coherent system flourish.

The plans for Hubs are ambitious. They require groups of schools (20-40) to collaborative together and with other local stakeholders to build each schools provision across the Gatsby benchmarks.

careershub1

They are ambitious as they require buy in from lots of stakeholders and providers who will be tempted by the organisational and (slight) funding support on offer but may also be tentative in their support as Hubs have the potential to overlap or replace local partnership and structures already in place. (Much like the Careers Leader role, the balance between adhering to centrally dictated structures and not trampling on locally founded solutions is not something found without willingness to change from practitioners) Meanwhile, organisers in locales without strong current networking structures or those providing services in deprived areas (outside of defined Opportunity Areas who have a separate process) will, I hope, be champing at the bit to put forward a proposal for a Careers Hub.

The fist hurdle to overcome for any Enterprise Co-ordinator or Council Skills Development Manager will be a challenging one though. The initial expression of interest deadline is 24th April 2018 and the Excel Eligibility checker reply document asks the respondent questions which refer to the commitment and capacity of all involved schools. An Organiser diligently completing this form could be sending and chasing replies from up to 40 schools within 11 working days and some will also have to contend with the fact that their schools will still be on Easter break until the 16th, leaving only 7 working days to collate responses. The truth will be that many of the initial interest submissions will be sent without consultation from all potential participants as Organisers will hope to consult and gain buy in from schools in the period until the 24th May 2018 deadline for the whole application form to be submitted. The FAQ (Appendix F) explains that Hub bids will be able to swap around up to 10% of named schools before the scheme starts so this allows some flex for Organisers unable to secure buy in from schools.

Employer Encounters Fund

The £2.5m fund for Employer Encounters will accessible to “some” schools in Careers Hubs through “virtual wallets” obtained through a separate bidding process for Hubs.  These encounters will be available to purchase from providers approved by the CEC. Local providers of employer engagement will be keenly awaiting the May publication of the CEC approved provider list.

Hub Leads

Each of the 20 Hubs will be supported by the CEC to recruit a Hub Lead on a salary of £40,000-£50,000 plus expenses. This adds a significant new role into the careers landscape and one that will have plenty of current Enterprise Co-ordinators scouring  the job description (Appendix C) and thinking that they already perform many of the duties listed.

Conclusion

The Hub proposals look very enticing and those involved with the policy over the next few academic years should be excited at the promises of support on offer from the CEC. The prospectus includes many references to those schools outside of Hubs who will still be able to access funding for Careers Leader training funds and other CEC services but not the Employer Encounters funding. As only “some” schools in Hubs will be allocated this, there is certainly the potential for schools to be in different speed lanes for the support with their Careers provision over the next few years. A school that is part of a Hub and meeting their commitments in the Hub Memorandum of Understanding while also receiving financial support for Careers Leader training, Employer Encounter funding and the other guidance and support from the CEC and their Enterprise Co-ordinators would be in a very different position to a school without those advantages. If this offer is open in your area, take it up, and if your Council Lead or Enterprise Co-ordinator hasn’t submitted a bid, be asking them why not. There might well be good reasons for not wanting to be involved (a belief in established local networks for example), but for cash and resource starved CEIAG practitioners wanting to offer quality provision in their school, being part of a Careers Hub trial certainly looks like a rocket boost to being to achieve that.

 

The Cold Spots accountability hole

 

Following on from the previous post on this blog looking at how the non publication of apprenticeship vacancy, starts, registrations and applications data by age will mean an accountability hole when judging the progress of the Careers Strategy and schools guidance documents, this is a sequel post of sorts looking at another data accountability gap that will cause the Careers & Enterprise Company some problems.

The release of the Company’s Cold Spots research in 2015 drew together a number of data sources from other Government departments and quangos to map the weaker and stronger areas of employer engagement focused careers provision across England. This audit was useful as it allowed the Company to focus pilot schemes and target initial provision into the locations that needed it the most.

The Company has recently released a short, 2017 update to that original Cold Spots report that, according to those external data sources, shows a “warming” in career outcomes for young people across England.

coldspots1

This map shows that only one Local Enterprise Partnership area (Thames Valley Berkshire) has regressed and was now returning a higher number of cold spot indicators than in 2015. As the report itself says though, “it is too early to make claims about causality” and this is included for good reason. The original 2015 Cold Spots were based on 9 external data sources

Deprivation indicator:
– % Pupils known to be eligible for and claiming free school meals (FSM)1
2013/14
Employer engagement indicators i.e., “cold spots”
– % Employer establishments who had anyone in on work experience2 in the
last 12 months
– % Employer establishments who offered any work inspiration3 in the last
12 months
Outcome indicators:
– % Pupils attaining 5A*-C GCSE results in England 2013 – 14
– % A-levels entered that are STEM4 2013 – 14
– % STEM4 A-levels that are entered by girls 2013 – 145
– % In sustained apprenticeship destinations post key stage 4 (KS4) 2012/13
– % 16-17 year olds NEET (not in education, employment and training), as
reported by LA in June 2015
– % Employers answering: 16 year old school leavers are “poorly” or “very
poorly prepared” for work
– % Employers answering: 17-18 year olds recruited to first time job from
school are “poorly” or “very poorly prepared” for work

The 2016 update continued to use these sources but now the 2017 update finds itself in a quandary as two of those sources (the two employer returns from the UKCES employer survey data looking at satisfaction of school leaver skills & the offers of work experience and work inspiration activities from businesses) are no longer reporting in the same manner. This is due to the closure of UKCES. The responsibility to continue the survey moved to the DfE but the data gathered will be from a smaller sample size (around 18,000 telephone interviews in the 2016 edition vs over 91,000 telephone and face to face interviews in the UKCES editions) leaving the CEC with a dilemma. They need to both show progress on the continuing funded work both in cold spot areas (opportunity areas in Government speak) across the country but also to show the distance traveled from the starting point since the CEC’s inception this data has to be somewhat comparable year on year.

This leaves the CEC relying on GCSE results data and student destination data which are useful outputs to monitor but are one-sided in focusing on the supply side of students entering the workplace. The views of the demand side from employers would not now be comparable across past years.

Thus the recent publication ends with a consultative call for suggestions on which data points to use to achieve this. The CEC should be wary about using data supplied by employer bodies such as the CBI as, historically, this has been much more scathing on the work readiness of school leavers entering the labour market and much more positive about the contribution of business offering experiences to young people. The UKCES returns told a story of employers being much more satisfied with the employability skills of young people and of a significantly smaller amount of engagement provision with education. So the first stipulation for any new data sources the CEC use, would be that they should be from impartial sources. On the flip side to this coin, data supplied by LEPs should also be considered with an arched eyebrow for they will be keen to champion the success of Government funding in their own patch.

It’s also worth pointing out that the improving “warming” outcomes are in direct opposition to survey results from young people who report a lower number of employer engagements last academic year.

Does asking young people what they actually experienced meet the criteria the CEC is looking for?

Another factor for the CEC to consider is that trends in some of these data points are very much at the whim of changeable Government policy. Putting aside the example of UKCES closing it’s doors, using the number of KS4 leavers in sustained Apprenticeship destinations is commendable but since 2015 the Apprenticeship Levy has reshaped that sector, initially caused a drop in overall numbers of starts and begun to grow the provision that is left towards higher and degree apprenticeships and away from the Level 2 Apprenticeships open to 16-year-old GCSE leavers. The Higher Education Funding review could yet again change levels of tuition fees and so impact the desired destinations of young people. Perhaps the case is being made for the CEC to allocate some of its funding to tender for its own data collections and not be reliant on other arms of the State but, at a scale similar to UKCES level data collection, this would need significant investment.

It is the task of the CEC, to make a quantifiable impact on an area of public policy with multiple inputs and multiple outputs and, with their expanded remit in the Careers Strategy, the number of inputs will only grow. Getting the data points right to measure that impact is proving tricky.