National Careers Service: Strategic Options for Building a World Class Service
The National Careers Service (NCS) was launched in April 2012, tasked with supporting and enabling the career choices of citizens in England. The NCS replaced Next Step, the former careers service for adults. The new Service has three channels (face-to-face, phone and web). Early announcements indicated that it was to be an all-age service. But at present for young people it has only a limited helpline and web service, with no local face-to-face provision (NCS providers can provide such services to young people, but not as the NCS).
The Careers Alliance and its member organisations welcome and support the NCS. We wish to play our part in helping the Service to develop and become more successful in assisting people in their lifelong learning and work pathways. This paper has been prepared in this spirit. We suggest that this paper be addressed by the National Careers Council and that the Skills Funding Agency and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills be invited to make a formal response to the issues outlined here. In particular, we recommend that the NCC should examine in-depth the feasibility and desirability of the strategic longer-term issues set out in Section 6 of this paper, leading to a public statement from the Government about the future vision and strategy for the NCS.
Thus the NCS has the potential to be not only a private good for its clients but also a public good, with its benefits being felt beyond its immediate client group. Looking ahead to the next stages of its development, the role of, and challenge for, the Service must be to balance the needs and interests (short- and longer term) of the individual with wider social and economic priorities. While there are inevitably requirements, in tight times for the public purse, to prioritise NCS services, it remains important that a universal Service exists to support the careers not only of those who are unemployed but also of those whose lives are changing (or could fruitfully change) in other ways.
Design Features for an All-age Careers Service in England
This Briefing Note by the UK Careers Sector Strategic Forum (now the Careers Alliance) welcomed the announcement by John Hayes, the then Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, of the Coalition Government’s commitment to establish an all-age careers service in England, subsequently confirmed in its newly launched Skills Strategy. The Forum also welcomed the Minister’s affirmation of the need to strengthen career guidance as a profession, reflected in the report of Dame Ruth Silver’s Task Force on the Careers Profession and in the Browne Review on higher education funding.
This Briefing Note outlined some of the core principles that ought to be incorporated in the design of an all-age national careers service, identified some of the key issues that need to be addressed in developing the service, and offered the help of the UK Careers Sector Strategic Forum in tackling these issues.
The Careers Alliance suggested then that the all-age service needed to be viewed as a backbone for a world-class system of careers services in England. Principles that need to be adopted in developing such a system include:
Access: that all citizens should have access to careers services when they need them, at any stage through their lives.
Quality: that the quality of such services should be assured, both through the professional standards of careers practitioners, and through organisational quality standards.
Impartiality: that these quality standards should ensure that there is always access to impartial career guidance, free of institutional interests.
Balance between aspiration and realism: that careers services should focus on individual aspiration and potential, but should also ensure that career decisions are well-informed in terms of course progression and the needs of the labour market.
Career self-management: that careers services should be designed to help individuals to manage their own careers, knowing how to access support where it is needed.
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