National Careers Service falling short on supporting young people

18 Aug

In 2011, the former coalition government disband the careers services designed to launch students on their careers in the world of work.   The government passed responsibility for careers advice to schools/academies.   In 2012, the National Careers Services (NCS) was founded to provide anyone aged 13 and over with “access to up-to-date, impartial and professional guidance on careers, skills and the labour market through an online and telephone helpline.   Adults aged 19 and over or 18 and over if out of work and on benefits can access one-to-one support from an adviser of the NCS.

Last year, the Department for Education commissioned consultants, London Economics, to assess the impact of the work of the NCS.   They issued their report in March 2017. The consultants “could not identify a positive impact of the NCS on employment or benefit-dependency outcomes”, despite a government injection of £380 million to its work.

The consultants compared the progress of NCS’s customers with a group of people who did not use that service and discovered that the former spent less time in employment during the months that followed.  Their evaluation found that the employment outcomes of those engaging with the NCS worsened in the first few months following its support.  Half-a-year after receiving help, NCS customers spent 3.5% less time in employment than peers who did not use the service.  While the gap narrows with the passage of time, after two years’ intervention, they spent 2% less time being employed.

Gordon Marsden, Shadow Skills Minister, said: “I hope that, given the importance of careers advice in terms of getting young people proper opportunities for apprenticeships and older people proper opportunities for reskills, its structure now needs to be examined.”

The President of Further Education (FE) at the National Union of Students (NUS), Ms Shakira Martin, said that she was unsurprised about the consultants’ findings, given that 68% of students thought that 16 was too early to make choices that would define their career paths. “It is pressing,” she said, “that the government prioritises the release of its careers strategy before even more young people are let down by poor-quality postcode lottery careers advice.”

Mr Steven Evans, Chief Executive of the Learning and Work Institute, was more measured, observing that there were “a number of caveats in the analysis which means that it’s important not to overinterpret findings”.  However, he called on government to set out a clear vision for the NCS to boost social inclusion and productivity.

A DfE spokeswoman informed The Times Educational Supplement that it would be publishing its strategy later in 2017 which would include improved information, advice, guidance and wraparound support to help people into education and employment.

For many this strategy is long overdue and the expectation is that the impact will be positive.

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