The autopsy on the Plan for Jobs is continuing. The more everyone reflects, the less it seems likely that the government’s summer statement has done enough to impact on the approaching crisis in employment. I’ll have more to say on wider government policy soon, but I wanted to focus on the next steps for career guidance in this post.
I wrote last week about what the £32 million for career guidance would actually mean. In this post I want to try and set out some positive steps that government could take to enhance that offer and make sure that it is fit for purpose.
In our campaign before the Plan for Jobs we were calling for a Career Guidance Guarentee. A Guarantee would ensure that everyone, including young people and adults, those in education, work and who are currently unemployed or NEET, will be able to access the professional career guidance that they need.
The £32 million increases the capacity of the National Careers Service to deliver to its traditional client groups, but it falls considerably short of the Career Guidance Guarantee. It leaves out far too many people, including both young people in education and outside of it. The government could make some quick improvements simply by loosening up the funding rules that the National Careers Service is working with to allow the Service to work with a wider group of clients.
But, loosening up the funding will not go far enough. I think that as unemployment grows the government will build on the Plan for Jobs. In particularly there is a major opportunity to influence what goes into the Budget in the autumn. I’ve been working with the Career Development Policy Group and we are suggesting that we focus campaigning over the next few months around the following five questions.
- How can more adults be supported to access career guidance? Access to the National Careers Service is limited by age and employment status. Given the crisis these limits need to be relaxed.
- What resources are available to support unemployed and NEET young people? Young people, below the age of 19, have been left out of current arrangements. New funding needs to be found to ensure that they have the support that they need once they have left school or college.
- Do schools and colleges need more support to continue to improve their provision of career guidance? Less than 7% of schools are delivering career guidance at the standard defined by the Gatsby Benchmarks. Next year will put schools and school budgets under enormous pressure following the lockdown. If recent improvements in the provision of career education and guidance are going to be maintained it is important that new funding is found and personal guidance is prioritised.
- Where should recent graduates go for support with their careers? Graduates currently have no clear entitlement to career support. There is a need for new funding to provide support to this group to ensure that their skills are not lost to the economy.
- How can career guidance be integrated into Kickstart? The Kickstart scheme is an important new initiative from the government, but young workers will need a lot of support to make it work. The provision of career guidance interviews at the start and end of each Kickstart placement will help young people to find their way to meaningful opportunities and then make the most of those opportunities.
If the government is able to answer these five questions it will have gone a long way to establishing the Career Guidance Guarantee that is needed to meet the current crisis. It could then move to build on this in the medium term with a new Careers Strategy. A new strategy is needed to address the fragmentation in career support between young people and adults and the education and employment system.
It would be great if people could start to mobilise around these five questions. The campaign of letter writing to MPs, signatories on the open letter and wider campaigning was critical in driving the government to make the commitment to careers that it did in the Plan for Jobs. We need to keep up the pressure and keep pushing on these issues. Please write to your MP and keep using the hashtag #CareerGuidanceGuarantee to write about what needs to happen next in careers.
Over the last few weeks we’ve seen a huge shift in government spending in favour of careers and employment initiatives. But the scale of the challenge that we are facing is vast. The government needs to take bigger and bolder action. Pressure from below will help to make sure that the investment that the government makes is a wise one and one that supports citizens to build meaningful and sustainable careers, even in the middle of this crisis.