STEM

Your #GE2017 CEIAG manifesto roundup

imagevaulthandler-aspx

One year after the European referendum and two years after the last General Election you would’ve thought that the British public had earned a summer off from electioneering and yet here we are. The build up to #GE2017 is well underway.

At the time of writing the three main parties have all now released their manifestos so here’s quick summary of what they include in regard to CEIAG. I will update with any inclusions of CEIAG in the manifestos of other parties as and when I see them.

Conservatives

You can find the whole manifesto here, a Schools Week summary of the school policies here and an FE Week summary of the skills and technical education policies here.

CEIAG does not get a specific mention in the policy. Plenty of the school, Apprenticeship, HE and FE policies will impact on the work of CEIAG practitioners (not least the UCAS style portal for technical education mooted in the tweet above) but nothing in regards to Careers Advice in schools or the continuing work of the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC). Considering the organisation was set up under a Conservative Education Secretary, and that the party is by far the favourite to win a majority in the Election, this would raise concerns over the long-term future of the organisation beyond its current funding commitment.

The Labour Party

CEIAG gets two specific mentions in the Labour Party Manifesto.

Both are less than forthcoming about the details behind the promises. A campaign to spread the message about “creative” careers is very different to the STEM focused campaigns of the last few years. How this campaign and the wider improvement would be achieved, what structures, guidance or funding it would involve are all left to the imagination. Again no specific mention of employer engagement or the work of the CEC. You can find a summary of the wider schools policies here.

The Liberal Democrats

Along similar lines to the Labour commitments, the Lib Dem manifesto  offers one pledge to “improve” careers advice for young people and one with a more focused detail. The Lib Dems plump for STEM promotion while the links between employers and schools mention is an easy win as it only requires the work of the CEC to be continued for it to be achieved. Again, how this improvement will be achieved or what it would cost are not mentioned.

Manifestos are tricky documents that walk a fine line between detail on commitments and broader scene setting of the kind of country you wish voters to aspire to. It’s heartening that CEIAG is at least mentioned in the Labour and Lib Dem offerings while the omission from the Conservative document is a sign of the treatment of the sector in the most recent and Coalition parliaments. Will it also be a sign of the health of the sector under the forthcoming Goverment?

If you haven’t registered to vote, you can do so here: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote until midnight on the 22nd May. Please do so, your voice counts.

UPDATE – May 25th

UKIP

Today The United Kingdom Independence Party have released their manifesto which contains, comparatively, quite a substantive section on CEIAG

Introducing “practical employability lessons into the careers’ syllabus” sounds good until you remember that there isn’t a “careers syllabus” so it would be tricky to add something to it. It’s nice to see the list of soft skills but not so nice to see the provincialism of the “local job market” focus. CEIAG should take into account local Labour Market Intelligence but it should also expand horizons beyond the well known. A quick Google to test the claim “Entrepreneurship education is becoming increasingly common in the USA” throws up research which does bear this out but it is not explained why the USA is used as the benchmark as their overall education performance is below average. Much there already happens either through local partnerships or more formalised networks such as the CEC, the mention of a “careers syllabus” could be taken as a formal promise to reinstate statutory Careers education yet the mechanisms for achieving this in a Academy driven system (with opt outs from an National Curriculum) are not included.

Advertisements

The rise of the career advice vlogger

Getting messages out there in an increasingly crowded and noisey media landscape can’t be easy. Especially when your target audience swings between hyperactivity and utter indifference as often as teenagers tend to do.

I am not a branding or communication specialist but if I were, I would imagine that a key message in Branding 101 is “inhabit the space in which your target audience communicates.” It is perhaps no surprise then that a trend seems to be growing among stakeholders who are keen to promote career ideals to young people in starting to utilise the art of vlogging to spread their message.

Vlogging, in internet terms, isn’t new and has lead to a whole new breed of celebrity whose ability to speak directly and frequently with their loyal audiences has meant that brands have been quick to piggy back their products into the medium. Mostly though, vloggers have regular themes (fashion, gaming, travel, challenges) which they return to through their “daily life” stories. The trick that industry organisations such as Tomorrow’s Engineers or government backed bodies such as YOUR LIFE are now trying to achieve is to make the “career journey” the main theme of the vlogs and each channel.

Tomorrow’s Engineers have taken the route of hiring two young people in the early stages of their own STEM career journey and asking them to document their progress. The newest to the process seems like Nayeeb who is in his 3rd year at UCL (rule 1 of vlogging; look at the lens and stop checking out your hair on the viewfinder) while Lily, seems to have more of a blogging background having been running a lifestyle blog and (relatively) small scale twitter for a few years.

The YOUR LIFE team have taken a different approach. Rather than focus on more unknown internet personalities and attempt to build them up, they have appointed a number of vloggers who already have growing followings. The Mandeville Sisters with a feed of lifestyle, fashion and movie events (Youtube followers: about 51,000, Twitter followers: about 6,400), Victorious Sponge – ‘wacky’ comedy (Youtube followers: about 73,000, Twitter followers: about 3,200) and Ashens – retro games, retro toys and…sweets? (Youtube followers: about 920,000, Twitter followers: about 73,000) have all been enlisted to make videos that spread the STEM message. Hiring slightly more established internet bloggers was perhaps more of an option for YOUR LIFE though as their 2014-15 funding alone was £600,000 but, ultimately, what matters here is the impact these communication channels have.

In the world of vlogging, shares, likes and view counts are king. For both organisations mentioned, getting high numbers of these will be the first challenge (at the time of writing Lily’s intro video has only 250 views in 20 days). Those involved with YOUR LIFE are still tiny compared to the behemoths of the medium, the ubiquitous Zoella is now at over 9 million Youtube subscribers and 3.7 million Twitter followers and there are plenty of others whose follower counts blow the YOUR LIFE teams out of the water. Even then if the views do start stacking up, the actual impact on young people’s (particularly girls) subject and career decisions will be a much tougher consequence to measure. It will be interesting to see the success of this new model in reaching a hard to reach audience with a CEIAG message.

Should careers advisers tell young people “the truth?”

The obvious answer is “yes, always” right?

Without hesitation and by compulsion we should adhere stoically to the truth when offering guidance to clients. Perhaps delivered with compassion and understanding but ultimately the truth should always be aired. Whether we are utilising statistics and figures to illuminate the benefits or downsides of certain routes and destinations or to explain the expert guesses at the future labour market landscape awaiting our clients, the onus is on the professional capability of the adviser to be prepared and competent enough to have a range of sources on which to draw from that reflect the “truth.” The importance of this skill is considered such a key element of the role it is given it’s own Unit in the Level 6 Career Guidance Diploma.

Sometimes, the actual reality of what statistics show is happening can be lost in our own personal experiences or subjective views as Nick Hillman, the Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, discovered when confronting a room full of careers advisers convinced that the introduction of University fees was discouraging students from lower-income backgrounds to apply to H.E despite no current data to support this. Perhaps those advisers had personal, anecdotal stories which had blinded them to the wider world view or perhaps the data had just failed to get through the avalanche of numbers, figures and headlines that advisers try to keep up to date with about future labour market trends. The media (and those PR folk whose sole job it is to shout purely about their corner of the education world) don’t make this part of the job easy as the recent spate of headlines proclaimed that apprentices were now earning more than graduates shows.

Graduates are more likely to find themselves in low-paid jobs and are earning less than people who decide to do an apprenticeship instead of going to University, figures from the Office for National Statistics show

Which is all striking enough to get a Careers Adviser to take notice and feed into their messages of guidance. But was it the whole truth? A graph of recent ONS data shines a very different light on those claims.

Which clearly shows that, on average, graduates still outperform all other qualification routes on earnings. Some apprentices may be earning more than some graduates but HE leavers “on average” are still earning more over the course of their working life. When speaking to a confused 15-year-old about comparing the benefits of their possible future routes, which source would you use? Which one is closer to the “truth?”

Questions around subjectivity can significantly impact and influence the message conveyed by individual guidance givers. Despite our own professional best intentions, our own media intake, reading and decisions will drastically alter the range of data and the perception of that data we use with clients even before we interweave the personal stories and experiences of both ourselves and our client into the mix. The impact of influences on the truth we convey and omit can be drastic.

Let’s invent a client, a 15-year-old female student called Laura, studying at a regular English secondary school. Let’s imagine she’s bright and able to do well in her subjects with hard work. She’ll need to be, Laura is from a home eligible for Free School Meals so is 26.5% less likely to achieve A*-Cs in her Maths and English GCSEs than her classmates who do not receive FSM. If the school Laura attended was in Grimsby or Bradford, this hard work would be needed to insulate her from becoming the quarter of her age group who will become NEET upon leaving school. Let’s say Laura is on course to negotiate these initial hurdles and has expressed an interest in studying at the local Sixth Form College, which has navigated the pressures on their funding to still offer the STEM courses Laura is interested in. The closer she gets to her GCSE exams, it becomes clear that Laura may be on target for some excellent results which, considering her Afro-Caribbean heritage, means she would be outperforming her peers who remain the lowest performing ethnic group in British schools (para 1.3) . Teachers start talking to her about the differences in University options and light a fire in her to investigate the exclusive world of the Russell Group. Her fears about the average £44,000 of debt her studies will leave her paying into her 50s are allayed (much to Nick Hillman’s cheer) with the tantalising promise of  bursaries to help her despite that just a third of students receive £1400 a year. Achieve the outstanding grades required and you’ll have a great chance, she is told, despite the truth that her heritage and her state school education make it much less likely she would receive an offer compared to other students with the same grades.

Let us say Laura battles through to graduate with a valued STEM career to take one of the 13% of STEM roles currently held by women then to find that her pay is well below her male colleagues

and could be even more greatly affected by her decision to stay near her family home in the north of England.

If Laura was shown this version or each chunk of this version of the “truth” at the start of her journey, at which point would the enormity of the challenge laid out in front of her weigh her down and halt her efforts? At which point would the “truth” stop being beneficial and become a hindrance and a drag on aspiration? As Tristam Hooley comments on the  Nick Hillman piece

Careers advice, like politics, is the art of the possible. In fact much of the rationale for the existing of career guidance as part of public policy is the fact that helps individuals to make their way through sub-optimally organised systems.

so at which point should the full extent of just how “sub-optimal” the system is be shown? At which point does the “possible” become narrowed to reflect the reality rather than expanded to reflect the ambition? I’ve blogged before on framing Labour Market Statistics not as a dissuading element but as a motivator to encourage students to push on and achieve their dreams but Nick’s piece made me consider a deeper truth in my own practice in adhering to the statistics. Through omission and selection, I do not always “tell the truth.” I choose which facts and statistics to unveil to students that I think will motive and encourage them at opportune and transitional points and through that, hope to play a small role in the process as they move forward to see their version of the “truth” themselves.