Career Connect

The recent FE Skills for Jobs White Paper contains a number of positive policy announcements both for FE and Careers education. The focus on lifelong learning through the guarantee and loan entitlement are important steps forward in acknowledging the changing nature of Careers and the need for everyone to update and develop their skills throughout their lives.

Research in the US highlighted that the baby boomer generation had an average of 12.3 jobs during their lifetimes. There is evidence that this is increasing for younger generations, with a Gallop poll showing millennials as three times more likely to change jobs than older generations.

Our education system is still largely designed around early specialisation, which is especially pronounced in the English system with GCSE choices in Year 9.  This mean that young people are sometimes less well equipped for the rapid changes of the modern working world.

Recent data shows that job changes are increasing.  The growth of automation is likely to lead to this trend accelerating and therefore adaptability and the learning of new skills will be key. The growth of micro credentials and online learning should be an important part of this trend.

These trends make access to high quality and impartial careers advice & guidance even more important – a point recognised in the White Paper. ‘Skills for Jobs’ makes some positive contributions, but doesn’t go nearly far enough.

  1. The move to extend the requirement to provide careers guidance to Year 7 is welcomed. Research suggests that views of the world of work and careers starts relatively early in a child’s development, therefore earlier guidance can support more effective choices. Starting in Primary school would be even better, especially in terms of exposure to employers and will hopefully be part of future policy.
  2. The focus on ensuring the Baker Clause is being delivered in all schools by giving access to colleges and other providers to highlight non-academic routes is to be welcomed, with only 4% of young people starting an Apprenticeship after their GCSE’s. With arguably the greatest gap in the labour market being in technician level roles, this needs to change. However, the language of the paper is focused on enforcement and compliance. There is a risk this drives a focus on minimal compliance by schools rather than the opportunity to expand the range of information available to pupils and work in a cooperative way with FE providers. In the 165 schools where we operate, providing access to a wide range of opportunities through independent advice & guidance is key.
  3. The focus on Careers Leader training and the funding to support it is really positive. As one of the largest providers of this training in England, we see the massive benefits this training can have on schools and, most importantly, on the pupils themselves.
  4. We welcome the appointment of Professor Sir John Holman to review the alignment of the National Careers Service and the Careers & Enterprise Company to ensure an effective all-age career service. As part of this review it will be important to address the barriers to the achievement of the Gatsby benchmarks, which are already part of guidance for schools. Although there has been really positive progress from a low base, the average achievement across English secondary schools is 3.75 benchmarks being delivered against a total of 8, which is still less than 50% (although this has increased from below 25% four years ago).
  5. One of the major issues the paper doesn’t address is funding. One of the key reasons schools continue to find it challenging to deliver a comprehensive careers programme in line with the Gatsby benchmarks is the lack of a ringfenced budget. At the moment schools have the duty but must fund it from their broader funding pot, making a step change unlikely until this changes. In macro terms the funding required is relatively small, with access to independent careers guidance for all English secondary school pupils in line with Gatsby estimated at £175M – less than 1% of the total Secondary school budget. The impact of careers guidance on attainment, especially for disadvantaged pupils, is well evidenced, meaning investment in this area will be even more crucial post-pandemic.
  6. Finally, although the paper was delayed, taking into account Covid-19, there is little focus on the massive amount of support that will be required to help all young people and especially those with additional barriers to catch-up. There are a number of key interventions happening in this area, such as the National Tutoring Service, but it is really important these are joined-up with the wider reforms in FE. This paper provides a good overview of some of the issues Covid-19 and Social Mobility.

We look forward to seeing the results of Professor Holman’s review and the proposed thematic review of careers by Ofsted. Post-pandemic careers guidance will be even more important to guide young people through an increasingly uncertain future and, although the FE White Paper has a number of positives, it misses the opportunity to guarantee the path ahead.


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