Any party that is willing to set out its careers policy in the following fashion will probably get my vote.
- Career support is a universal and lifelong need which underpins the effective functioning of the labour and learning markets. Publicly funded, professional career support can also contribute to key public policy goals around social equity. The UK should therefore aspire to provide a publicly funded system of universal, lifelong career support. While it is important to recognise that in the current public spending climate it may not be possible to realise this vision straight away, it is also important that current policy does not take us further away from these goals.
- Career support is a system and therefore changes to an element of the system have consequences for other aspects of the system. For example, removing local authority based careers services has created stresses for career support in schools and FE colleges as well as meaning that people will now begin to access adult services with no prior experience of professional career support. It is therefore important that the public provision of career support is understood as a whole and efforts are made to ensure that disparities of provision do not emerge between the elements of the system that are managed by different government departments. Putting a national framework such as the Blueprint for Careers at the heart of public career support policy would be a huge step forwards for the UK career support system.
- The decision to close down Connexions and Aimhigher and then transfer responsibility to schools in the Education Act 2011 has resulted in a clear decline in the quality and quantity of career support in schools. The proposals of the Education Committee on Career Guidance for Young People represents the most realistic way forward from the current situation.
- The National Careers Service has been the most important innovation of this government in relation to career support. However, the potential of the National Careers Service has yet to be realised. It is important that it is not allowed to become exclusively a service for unemployed people and that a crude payment by results system is not imposed. It is also important that new funding is found to market the service so that the general public become aware of it existence and to investments are made in developing and modernising the service. A recent paper from the Careers Sector Strategic Alliance usefully set out key options for the service.
- There are both opportunities and dangers presented by the localisation of control of careers services. Any proposal like Lord Hestletine’s should ensure that the funding of careers services is a core requirement of the locality rather than something that can be traded off against other public services.