Government publishes careers strategy

31 Dec

I        The Four Themes of the Career Strategy

In the second week of November 2017, the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister, Anne Milton, set out four themes which will underpin the government’s careers strategy.  These are as follows.

(1)        “A high-quality careers programme in every school and college” based on the Gatsby Foundation’s benchmarks for good careers guidance.

(2)        “Encounters with providers and employers” especially focusing on the work of the Careers and Enterprise Company in the DfE’s 12 Opportunities Areas, i.e. Blackpool, Derby, Norwich, Oldham, Scarborough, West Somerset, Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich and Stoke-on-Trent.

A key aim of an opportunity area will be to build young people’s knowledge and skills and provide them with the best advice and opportunities, including working with organisations such as the Careers and Enterprise Company, the Confederation of British Industries, the Federation of Small Businesses and the National Citizen Service.

The increased DfE opportunity area funding of £72 million will support local education providers and communities to address the biggest challenges in the 12 areas.  The opportunity areas will have priority access to other DfE support including the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund worth £75 million, focused on assisting teachers and school leaders in challenging areas to develop.

The Department for Education (DfE) aims to ensure that children (in the words of Secretary of State Justine Greening) “get the best start in the early years, to build teaching and leadership capacity in schools, to increase access to university, to strengthen technical pathways for young people and work with employers to improve young people’s access to the right advice and experiences.   The DfE will work with each opportunity area to respond to local priorities and needs – because each area will have its own challenges.”

(3)        Ms Milton acknowledged that the “careers profession has experienced many shocks in recent years” and that the government will look to support qualified advisers to deliver tailored guidance through the National Careers Service and other organisations.

(4)        The final theme is to improve the use of data. Ms Milton said that “more needs to be done to make destination data easier to interpret” and that the government will look to improve this.

II       The Plans

In early December 2017, Mrs Milton’s long-awaited careers strategy was published. The plans to improve the provision of careers guidance and advice in schools include the following.

(a)        Interactions between schools and businesses

“Secondary schools will be expected to provide pupils with at least one meaningful interaction with businesses every year, with a particular focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) industries.”

(b)       More time with employers from an early age

The government pledged £2 million to pilot ways of engaging children in careers from an early age, especially in challenging areas.

(c)        Dedicated careers leaders

The government wants every school/academy and college to have a dedicated careers leader.  It will make £4 million available to provide training and support for at least 500 schools/academies and colleges (equivalent to £8,000 per school/academy) “so they can give the most up-to-date advice and fully prepare young people for the world of work”. The strategy calls for governing boards and headteachers to give ‘explicit backing’ to careers leaders.

(d)       Careers hubs

The government pledged £5 million funding to develop 20 careers hubs, led by the Careers and Enterprise Company to work across the Gatsby Benchmarks for good careers guidance, linking together schools, colleges, universities and local businesses.

(e)        Specialist advice for adults who need it most

The National Careers Service will provide access to specialist support for adults with low qualification levels and special education needs.

III     Commentary

It is welcome that the government strategy makes explicit that schools and academies must give providers of technical education and apprenticeships the opportunity to talk to all pupils, something that has been conspicuous by its absence till now.  Also, Ofsted, will comment, when inspecting colleges, on the quality of careers guidance given to students.

However, the funding of £4 million set aside for 500 schools/academies and colleges to provide dedicated leaders (one in each institution) training and support is too little.  It will not go far and fail to address the ambitions of the institutions.  Having a careers leader in each school, academy, college cannot be provided on the cheap.

While Ann Milton and her chief, Justine Greening, have done well to put careers education more centre stage, the resources that have been set aside for its development will fall far short of what is needed.

You can read the careers strategy in full here.

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