Careers advice ‘patchy and inadequate’ – BIS committee

A new report issued by the House of Commons Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy has criticized the provision of careers advice in the UK as inadequate, and set out a number of reforms it believes would improve the service to school leavers seeking their first steps into employment, including strengthening the role of Ofsted in determining the adequacy of careers advice.

Calling the current set up ‘patchy’, the committee goes on to say, “Too many young people are leaving education without the tools to help them consider their future options or how their skills and experiences t with opportunities in the job market. is failure is exacerbating skills shortages and having a negative impact on the country’s productivity.”

The steps laid out by the committee include:

  • Government policy should be to incentivise schools to bring their careers provision up to standard and to hold them to account when they fail to do so. Ofsted’s role should be strengthened, and schools downgraded if careers provision is not effective.
  • The complex web of national organisations should be untangled. There should be a single Minister in charge of careers provision for all ages, and a rationalisation of the Government-funded organisations delivering careers programmes. e Careers & Enterprise Company should be empowered to act as the umbrella organisation it was intended to be.
  • Steps should also be taken to bring order to the congested market place of service providers and websites. The Quality in Careers and matrix Standards should be merged into a single brand.
  • Careers advice and guidance should be grounded in accurate information about the labour market. The Government should ensure that Local Enterprise Partnerships have the capacity—and are encouraged—to provide up-to-date, good quality labour market information to schools, colleges and careers professionals in their areas.
  • Finally, all young people should be given the opportunity to understand better the world of work, through engagement with employers and meaningful work experience.

 

‘Incentive system broken’

Central to the committees recommendations is the need to improve incentives to schools to take careers advice more seriously, and to offer a broader path to students. Advisers must be allowed to provide a range of non-academic options, the report says, citing criticism from the British Chambers of Commerce, “Who told us that its members reported “a lack of willingness from some schools to signpost students to apprenticeships and other vocational pathways”, in part thanks to the financial incentives offered to schools when pupils continue on for A levels.

The report also urged the inclusion of careers advice into the current Ofsted set up:”The Common Inspection Framework should be amended to make clear that a secondary school whose careers provision is judged as “requires improvement” or “inadequate” cannot be judged to be “outstanding” overall; likewise, a secondary school should be unable to receive an overall judgment of “good” if its careers provision is judged to be “inadequate,” the report says.

 

‘Schools must deliver impartial, practical advice – not just A levels’

The importance of vocational training generally, and apprenticeships in particular, is clearly held by the committee, which lauded the efforts of those schools that provide clear and unbiased advice to students unsure of their next steps. It cited the example of St Marylebone School in London, which “Told us that one of its impartial careers advisers held one-to-one meetings with all year 11 students to discuss the different options available, including A-levels, further education and apprenticeships: a significant proportion of students subsequently chose not to stay on in the sixth form but to pursue other options at age 16. In our view, this approach is the right one; it is clear that other schools could do more to ensure their students receive similarly impartial advice, although we recognise that there are resource constraints for many schools.”

The report was welcomed by the Edge Foundation, which has campaigned to improve collaboration between schools, training providers and LEAs. “The sub-committee’s proposals are welcome, but need to be backed up with funding and resource rather than just placing further burdens on schools,” said Edge chief executive, Alice Barnard

‘We need better use of technology, such as a careers “aggregator” – something like a price comparison web site – which brings together all the information about particular careers into a single place.

‘Even more importantly, we need schools to open their doors to local employers. Employers are ready and willing to help provide workplace visits, careers talks and work experience. Research suggests that this prepares young people for adult life and the workplace, and can even boost earnings.”