This commentary is provided by Laura-Jane Rawlings, Youth Employment UK, CEO:
“I am pleased that the careers strategy has been launched. I feel that the tone and ambition put forward by Anne Milton and her team strikes the right chord. We should all be able to back a strategy that wants all young people to have the best opportunities to progress and to be receiving the right support at the right time.
It strikes me that the Minister means what she says and is putting weight to her strategy by announcing it at the national CDI Conference, this should give us all the hope that the Minister believes in the value of impartial and professionally trained careers guidance practitioners. Credit to the CDI who have had to fight more than most to protect their profession following a certain Ministers view.
A particular win for us was to see the recommendation that young people should be involved in the design, implementation and testing of any school/college careers strategy. We have long been lobbying for the inclusion of young people throughout the work of DfE and other government departments. Young people should be the champions of their school careers strategy and there are some excellent examples of this working really well in schools across England.
Recommendations vs non-negoitables
We support the idea of Careers Leaders in all schools, I am a particular champion of both the careers strategy and the Careers Leaders contact details being made available on the school website. As a parent I want to know what preparation my children will have for the world of work.
My worry is that these feel like recommendations rather than explicit non-negotiables, I am unable to get a sense of the consequences if these actions are not met. We are quite frankly a million miles off most parents selecting schools based on anything other than local perceptions, league tables and Ofsted reports, so if this is the only incentive I feel it will need close monitoring and regular reviews.
Gatsby & the CEC
As expected Gatsby benchmarks and the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) play a large part in this strategy. I have met a number of schools who are committed to embedding the Gatsby benchmarks and who also have great relationships with their CEC Advisor, these schools are doing exceptionally well and I am optimistic for the future of their students. These two components make sense; build a strong and stable programme built for the needs of individuals, and have as many quality contacts with employers as possible, (once a year, every year needs to be the very minimum).
It is time for the CEC to become the leader the sector and our schools and colleges need. Is there enough money to get this done, and to ensure that all schools and therefore all young people benefit? That I am least sure of, in the original Gatsby recommendations it states that £30,ooo+ per year, per school is needed to implement and manage all 8 benchmarks, how our schools are to do this without a budget increase is the biggest challenge of all.
I know from very personal experience that the role of the volunteer can go along way but with an ambitious industrial strategy, Technical Education Reform, Brexit on the horizon, growing concerns around social mobility and the number of young people becoming economically inactive growing can we rely on volunteers, and pilot size investments to fix what has been a broken system for so long?
The Minister talks of Social Mobility and the need to ensure all young people can progress, but I see more reference to level 3 plus qualifications than any other. We must begin to recognise that for some of our young people a level 2 qualification is an excellent outcome, be that an academic or vocational qualification. Ambition to achieve as much as you possibly can is right, but our language still excludes many young people who don’t meet this governments measure of success.
By 2020 hundreds of thousands of young people will have left our school system, I am keen to understand how we can provide support to those making key decisions today (and tomorrow) and how we can ensure that whilst we are testing and building some of these new services we do not, in the short-term fail these young people.
I appreciate that I have highlighted a number of concerns from this strategy, but I want to finish by reiterating how pleased I was to see it. That the tone is right, some of the recommendations and plans are excellent and I look forward to helping them to become a reality. Youth Employment UK will support our young people and those helping them with everything we have.
We look forward to welcoming the Minister to our next APPG Meeting where she will receive a copy of our report – Supporting young people furthest from the labour market and provide a response on how her department intend to do just that.