Responding to the careers strategy – A Westminster Employment Forum Seminar

On the 22nd of May I attended and spoke at the Westminster Employment Forum Seminar: Responding to the careers strategy – priorities for implementation, improving quality of provision and meeting skills needs.

The event brought an array of speakers together including Maria Sciara from the Department for Education, Joe Billington from the National Careers Service, Athol Hendry from The Careers & Enterprise Company and many great panellist speakers.

The Rt Hon Baroness Garden of Frognal kicked off the morning highlighting the importance careers education plays in helping young people transition into employment. The Baroness champions Higher & Further Education and Skills in her work as a Member of the House of Lords.

Sciara from the DfE talked about the strategy that was launched in November 2017, since then the careers team have regular meetings with Minister Anne Milton to discuss the progress of the Careers Strategy, recognising that it is fundamental to the success of Apprenticeship and Technical Education Reform alongside the Industrial Strategy.

Sciara emphasised the importance of the Gatsby Benchmarks and The Careers & Enterprise Company in that but was unable to answer questions about properly funding schools to deliver the Gatsby Benchmarks or to fund qualified careers advisers to ensure all young people have access to face-to-face support instead suggesting that there would be time to review whether more funding was needed once they have rolled out all the phases of the strategy to include the career hubs. Sciara also promoted the work and investment that has gone in to improve the National Careers Service as a place for all people to find help and support.

Ryan Gibson followed on from Sciara, he has been heavily involved in the Gatsby North East pilot and was able to share some of the positive outcomes that have been seen during this pilot. One in particular that stood out for me was that more schools have hired qualified careers advisers as part of their drive to achieve all 8 Gatsby Benchmarks.

Following these two keynotes we heard from a panel including; Helen Barnard from Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Professor Liz Barnes from Staffordshire University and Stoke-On-Trent APB and Darush Dodds from ESH Group who brought an employer perspective. What stood out in this session for me was the presentation by Helen Barnard. Barnard talked about in-work poverty and the fact that there are 3.7 m workers living in poverty today. Good careers and skills training can make a real difference in helping people progress into better paying jobs and there is a clear case for that with these numbers.

This panel was then followed by Joe Billington and Athol Hendry. Billington provided an excellent overview of the work that the National Careers Service has done to support the journey of its customers both online and through the telephone and face-to-face support. It was great to hear too that the NCS recognises that it needs to engage and support organisations who are also providing careers and skills information to young people and adults, recognising that it is not the only player in this space and that it can take the role of supporting all the delivery organisations. Hendry who followed shared The Careers & Enterprise Company implementation strategy.

A final panel which included myself, Viginia Issac of Career Management Quality Alliance, Vicky Woodings of The Bourne Academy, Sharon Cousins of Richmond Upon Thames College and Denise Bertuchi of UNISON. It was great to hear from Woodings and Cousins who shared the excellent practice that they have been embedding into their organisations, supporting learners with a more inclusive careers programme. But important messages came from Issac and Bertuchi on the need to recognise and support qualified careers professionals.

In summary it was a good event and definitely some positive feelings in the room towards the careers strategy and Gatsby benchmarks.

However, many schools and advisers I spoke with still fear that without funding we will continue to see a range of patchy practice and that not all young people will benefit from good careers provision.

I wonder how long it will take before we get to that place and how many young people will miss out on that support. We know youth unemployment is still a major challenge, social mobility is not improving and the inequality that grows in provision will only have a negative impact on these already growing issues. We have to work better together to get services like the NCS and our Young Professional Membership into the hands of more young people.

Next steps:

  • Read more about us and the work we do to support all stakeholders in our bid to reduce youth unemployment here
  • We have created free tools for schools and and youth orgs to engage with our youth services here
  • Read more about how we support young people to develop their Young Professional Skills and explore careers here

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