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.