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.
Submission to Education Select Committee Enquiry on Career Guidance
This Briefing Note from the CSSA responds to the concerns outlined by the Education Select Committee, but also outlines some of the strategic challenges facing the careers sector, given that there are one million young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs), and growing numbers of graduates are finding it more difficult to get work. Despite the efforts to reduce youth unemployment, concerns remain for the next generation of young people that will face extremely tough choices, not just at school in terms of their subject choices and further study choices, but also their career choices at a time when opportunities for work are limited and the medium-term projections for the economy are for stagnant growth and low levels of job creation.
There is much to support: the Government has issued a ‘practical guide for schools’2 alongside its statutory guidance to schools3; it has established the National Careers Service4 (albeit its face-to-face services are for adults only); it has created a National Careers Council5 to provide oversight for the NCS and to provide advice to government on careers services more generally; it has promoted the Matrix Standard; it has supported the Careers Profession Alliance in establishing a single professional body for careers advisers, to be called the Career Development Institute; and it has supported Careers England in developing the Quality in Careers Standard. But concerns remain about how career guidance provision for young people in schools and colleges will be funded, how quality in provision will be assured, and how schools will be supported to meet their statutory responsibilities.
We risk a postcode lottery
Preparations by schools for the new statutory duty need to be viewed in a broader context. There are concerns from head teacher bodies9 that careers education programmes within schools are being weakened. The current statutory duty to provide careers education within the curriculum has been removed; funding for programmes like Aimhigher and Education Business Partnerships has been discontinued; and work experience and work-related learning pre-16 seem likely to become much less common now that the requirement for schools to offer these opportunities has been withdrawn. There is a very significant risk of inconsistent careers provision across England, with school students suffering from a ‘post-code lottery’ in relation to what they are likely to receive, depending on the resources and priorities of their particular school.
Careers Provision in the Education Bill: key outstanding issues
This Briefing Note outlines some of the concerns with the drafting of the then Education Bill. It was then clear that the main elements of Government policies in relation to careers provision were unlikely to change. Within this framework, however, the members of the Careers Alliance urged that attention be paid to four key outstanding issues, in order to maximise the potential benefits of the policies set out in the Bill and minimise their risks:
proper guidance to schools;
quality assured provision;
breaches of the statutory duty;
extending the BCS remit to NEETs.
“The government should act urgently to guarantee face-to-face careers advice for all young people in schools”.
Recommendation to the Coalition Government from Simon Hughes, the Government Advocate for Access to Education in his report to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, July 2011
The Government’s proposed new arrangements for careers education and guidance: what will they mean for employers?
Employers have a strong interest in the quality of careers education and guidance in schools. The better-prepared young people are in terms of their career decision-making, the more work-ready they are likely to be. Employers have much to contribute to the quality of careers education and guidance programmes in schools, through providing work experience, talks, mentoring etc. Many employers work with schools and with career guidance professionals to help young people understand the world of work. Much is being done to harness such contributions. But employers recognise that the scope and effectiveness of such contributions is significantly dependent on the existence, accessibility, quality and extent of careers education and guidance programmes in schools. A recent report produced by Deloitte for the Education and Employers Taskforce has emphasised the role that employers play in schools, but that more must be done.
We need to better harness the partnership working between employers,
schools and careers advisers to shape government policy on careers education, information, advice and guidance.
Budget Allocations and Arrangements for Careers Services for Young people within the new All-age Careers Service in England
At the start of the Coalition Government there was initially significant uncertainty about careers policy in England. The parties entering into Coalition Government had promised much in their manifestos, and notwithstanding much promise about prioritising social mobility, the issue of careers education and IAG policy remained uncertain.
This Briefing Note sets out the concerns of the then UK Careers Sector Strategic Forum (now called the Careers Alliance) about the funding and transition arrangements for career information, advice and guidance (IAG) for young people in England and about the responsibilities of schools.
The note outlines concerns about the lack of appropriate funding and transition arrangements, and the lack of certainty of responsibility and resource allocation to schools and local authorities.
These concerns were highlighted at a time when the then Minister for Skills, John Hayes had made a widely-welcomed speech at the Institute of Career Guidance conference in Belfast in October, where he had reaffirmed that the heart of the new arrangements for young people must be close partnerships between schools and expert, independent advisers. Such partnerships have been shown by international research to be the strongest model of careers provision for young people. They are based on, in essence, schools being responsible for careers education, and an external service being responsible for providing career guidance. It is important that both of these elements be secured in the new legislation.
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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