A brand new careers company for England – hurrah!(?)

hurrah

Yesterday the DfE announced its new plans for careers. Amazingly I seem to have beaten Russell in producing some commentary on this – so I’ll revel in this once in a lifetime opportunity to set the blogospheres agenda on something.

So the back story is that we’ve known for a week or so that there was £20 million of new money for careers. What we didn’t know was what they were planning to spend this money on.

Yesterday Nicki Morgan announced that they were planning to establish a new careers and enterprise company for schools which will seek to “transform the provision of careers education and advice for young people and inspire them about the opportunities offered by the world of work.” This is all set out in a press release on gov.uk.

The new body will be chaired by the current Chair of Capgemini UK, Christine Hodgson. I’ve never come across Christine before so I’d be interested in any insights that anyone has. She has had an involvement with Business in the Community which is probably a good sign. On the other hand she clearly isn’t a careers expert, so it will be important for her to surround her self with some people who do know a bit about the sector and can help to avoid the reinventing of any wheels.

So high profile employer lead aside, what will this new company actually do. Cutting through the rhetoric in the press release I think that the key features are as follows.

  • It will be focused on young people 12-18.
  • Its core remit will be brokerage between employers and schools. However, it is unlikely that it will have the level of resourcing to actually be doing this activity across all of England’s schools. So presumably it will be about providing strategic leadership for education/employer engagement.
  • It will provide advice to schools and colleges about the selection of careers providers. Presumably this will mean something like the creation of a national register of providers, but this is not clear.
  • Drive the creation of an “employability passport”. Again what this really means is not clear, but it will probably end up as some kind of e-portfolio. I’m not against this, but… e-portfolios are notoriously difficult to implement and particularly difficult to get employer buy-in to.
  • Map current provision and spot cold spots. Given all of the stuff that I’ve written on the postcode lottery in careers, this can only be a good thing.
  • Provide feedback to government on how the careers/employability/employer engagement space is working.
  • It will run a £5 million investment fund (is this part of the £20 million? If so it means that the normal running costs for the company will actually only be £15 million, which means that there is even less to go round). What kinds of innovations this will fund are not clear.

Alongside this announcement there is also some stuff about improving the destination data. I don’t think that this is really anything new, nor does it really seem to be directly related to the new company.

OK. So this all sounds good right? A new strategic body led by a high profile, independent chair to improve careers provision in England.

Well, I’m going to go with optimism for now. I think that this is a good thing. However, a more pessimistic or critical person than I might make the following points.

  • The amount of money earmarked for this initiative is pretty small. Only 10% of what was lost when the much criticised Connexions was cut. If Government wasn’t happy with what could be done for £200 million it seems questionable whether all of the problems can be solved for £20 million.
  • The new body is fairly narrowly framed at the moment. Employer involvement is really important, but it isn’t everything. The new body will have to think about schools, teachers and careers professionals as well. Brokerage in and of itself won’t address the current failures in the system.
  • The decision to establish a new body rather than use either the National Careers Service, the LEPs or any number of third sector bodies in this space is an “interesting” one. My worry would be that a lot of the money is sucked into set up costs.
  • There is at present no commitment to fund this in an ongoing way. At present the £20 million is to get things going rather than a commitment to fund a new national service. Someone far more cynical that I might say that this looks a bit like a pre-election bribe. If no new money appears after the election then this body is unlikely to trouble the landscape for very long.

Personally I hate those moaning minnies who make the kinds of points above. Now is a time to rejoice! However, it is also a time to engage energetically and positively with the new company. There is a lot of detail still to be worked through and this detail could make the difference between something that is genuinely useful and another massive white elephant.

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10 thoughts on “A brand new careers company for England – hurrah!(?)

  1. Thank you for the upbeat analysis! It might be worth the careers sector keeping an eye on how a similar model is working on the support of the IT/coding in agenda in schools. There seem to be strong parallels with a body established to support schools with some pump priming money and energise the involvement of IT companies.

  2. I’m glad you’ve posted this Tristram and helped explain this new company because I wanted to do a post on it but frankly, when it came to it, I just wasn’t sure that I’d fully understood what the new company will be or what it will actually do. As someone doing this work in a school who’s job this creation is meant to be helping, I’m still mostly at a loss trying to imagine how it’s going to achieve that. All of the speeches and PR around it makes it sound as if it will be all conquering but it’s financial backing is meager and the sheer complexity of the task it faces is daunting. Even before engaging with the school system and the multitude of employer bodies, the number of organisations involved in careers & enterprise education that will want their point of view incorporated into it’s work means a substantial piece of work. I obviously hope it helps draw all of these fragmented and sometimes overlapping players into a more coherent strategy where the simplicity of the system and it’s positive word of mouth get more schools doing good careers work but, strewth, it will be a mission and a half.

  3. I think that the best case scenario is that it really focuses on providing strategy to a fragmented sector. Whether it will seek to do this, or be able to pull it off, remains to be seen.

  4. Seems like a Quango to me! Will a new Labour/UKIP government still go with it? Is the £5m part of the £20m? If so, funding only for 4 years. Will it go the way of Connexions? Will employers really get on board? What’s in it for them given the varied commitment to apprenticeships? Will the only providers be EBPs thus abandoning independent CAs? What is the expectation of providers? What will be the relationship with Ofsted?

    I think spring 2015 sounds rushed.

  5. Thanks for your thoughts on this press release and appreciate your upbeat thoughts.
    However, it is hard not to sigh, and think the Government have missed the point, yet again.
    Engagement with employers and developing employability skills can be really useful, and schools would welcome support in doing this, but it is only part of the picture. Young people need innovative and creative careers education to help them understand what is “career” and to give them opportunities to develop the skills they will require to navigate the complexities of career decision making. They do not seem to have acknowledged the work done by Banardo’s in “Helping the inbetweeners…”(2013), or the Gatsby Report “Good Career Guidance” (2014) .Surely requiring schools to provide careers information, advice and guidance, to Career Mark standards, and providing some finances to all schools, in order to do so would be much more useful for young people.

  6. Thanks for this. Many schools are struggling with capacity, cash and commitment to make careers the priority it urgently needs to become. The four Cs !
    Let’s hope this is a part of the solution , looking forwards.

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