Written evidence submitted by Careers England
The Government should urgently address the fragmented nature of careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG) at a policy and service level. This fragmentation exists in services for young people in education, as they leave education and in later phases of people’s lives from age 18 onwards. It can be confusing for individuals, education and training providers and employers to understand where help is available and how to access it. Help and support is available from the National Careers Service (NCS), but its existence and the scope of its offer is not widely known.
Currently, there is confusion about the place and purpose of CEIAG in relation to wider education and skills policy and how this relates to labour market interventions. There is a disconnect between DfE driven policy and provision - principally the National Careers Service and Careers and Enterprise Company provision- and DWP employment and skills provision through Jobcentre Plus and employment support procured by DWP.
At a national level the lack of coherence and continuity of careers support for young people in education is accentuated as young people enter the labour market, in particular from age 18. Apart from the confusion for individuals this is also a missed opportunity to enrich government supported employment and skills provision and ensure that young adults and older workers can benefit from impartial and expert careers advice as they navigate labour market options.
A recent example of this was the Plan for Jobs. The National Careers Service was not built into into DWP ‘customer’ pathways to ensure that individuals affected by the impact of the pandemic on their jobs benefit from the offer of expert and professional careers advice prior to being referred by Jobcentre Plus work coaches to Kickstart, Restart, Traineeships, etc. This would have helped to reduce the human and economic costs of revolving door provision for people who fail to make a smooth transition.
In the context of the Skills for Jobs White Paper and looking to the future, people will need a skills reassessment at intervals to remain active and to progress in an increasingly dynamic and changing labour market. Many will need to rethink their career paths completely. This requires investment in careers education and guidance as a continuing process in people’s development and not just an event that occurs at the point they leave school. We must start this process at an earlier stage in young people’s education and development, where they learn the skills to manage their careers longer term, and ensure that support is available from qualified careers professionals as skilled helpers as they navigate choices at different stages in their lives.
In any review of departmental accountability and responsibility it is the view of Careers England that CEIAG in transition from education to work, including provision for adults, should remain an important feature of education and skills policy within the DfE and not relegated to an opportunity brokerage function at the expense of impartial and professional careers advice and guidance. This should be managed across government with practical links between DfE and DWP provision, including links to Health and Justice where individuals can benefit from careers support with a link to social prescribing as part of their wellbeing and where those in custody and services through the gate into the community can assist with the resettlement of offenders.
CEIAG - A DfE Policy Priority
There should be greater coherence and focus on the important role of CEIAG across all learning and skills provision within and across DfE. CEIAG is important at all points of transition for young people and results in more secure progression pathways. Also, access to informed and expert careers advice and guidance should be guaranteed, supplementing available careers and labour market information for adults in work or in transition in the labour market. The needs of employers and the wider labour market must play a role in driving up standards and ensuring the place of CEIAG in the curriculum. This can be enhanced by ensuring young people have access to trained careers professionals who are informed by and understand future skills needs and how they can be acquired. Evidence suggests that we are not training enough careers professionals in England to meet current demand and we will fall far short of the numbers needed to ensure CEIAG is universally and consistently available in the future. More needs to be done to recognise the value of careers professionals, including raising the levels of funding from government for their services.
As the pandemic has demonstrated, uncertainty and change has deleterious consequences for people’s mental health. High quality careers education, information and guidance can act as a protective factor for individuals as they manage change. Evidence from Careers England member organisations indicates that their work with many NEET young people is initially as much about helping to stabilise chaotic lives and building resilience as it is about enabling them to find work or training. Once in work or training the evidence shows that many negative outcomes are reduced e.g. drug misuse, poverty, crime, levels of teenage parenting.
There is fragmentation in the responsibility and accountability for careers support for young people nationally, which can lead to gaps or duplication in services. For young people in full-time education the statutory responsibility rests with individual schools and colleges. For those outside education up to age 18 statutory responsibility for the participation of young people in education and training rests with individual local authorities. From 18 onwards the responsibility shifts to Jobcentre Plus (a DWP responsibility). See below NCS priorities below.*
What is needed is a continuous and coherent strategy and plan at a national and local level for how young people are supported to manage their career development across the phases of education and training, and into work. It should be clear where accountability for this strategy sits in government, particularly where different government departments are involved. At the local level, overarching accountability must include the involvement of schools, colleges, local authorities, employers, civic organisations and others working with young people in this space. It ought to be clear how up to date and comprehensive careers information is provided to young people and how they are helped to interpret and apply it in decision making at each stage of their education and training assisted and enabled by professionally trained careers advisers. Professional careers advisers have a comprehensive knowledge of local and other labour markets and are critical to helping young people and adults understand the range of education, training and employment options available and how to access them. Investment is needed in their ongoing CPD to ensure that this knowledge is maintained and updated at regular intervals.
CEIAG - An Enabler: Universal access and targeted interventions
If we are to move towards a coordinated national skills service, however this may be defined and titled, we ought to identify what good CEIAG looks like, what works well, and how investment can be better targeted by improved tracking of young people’s progression from school to education, training and work. Also, we ought to personalise this in a way that reports on young people who struggle to make a smooth and successful progression into skills and work, so that no one is left behind.
Currently schools and colleges are expected to report on destinations of their students up-to 12 months beyond leaving education. Often this is an incomplete data set, particularly where young people have no recorded further or higher education destination, including and in particular those that become NEET. Whilst local authorities are expected to track and report on the movement of young people outside education and training up to age 18, the quality of this data is not universally reliable. Where local authorities commission careers service organisations to engage and work with young people who are NEET or vulnerable the breadth of service offered to young people is far greater. However, the number of local authorities that do this is small, with some local authorities providing only a minimum level of support to meet their statutory duties. Such organisations often combine funding streams, many are charities who access funds public bodies cannot, adding valuable resource to resource-stretched services. This enables them to provide important careers support to individuals in need and enable them to access education training and work, commensurate with their aspirations, interests and capabilities.
The belief is that there has been a reduction in the active tracking of young people in recent years, due in some part to a reduction of funding to support this activity. This impacts most on young people who are vulnerable or marginalised. This should be a function of a good careers strategy: Studies have shown that England has lost track of over 150,000 young people aged 16-18; and over 50,000 of these are believed to be NEET, these are the ‘hidden NEET’. There were 1 in 8 young people NEET at age 18, which equates to 25 young people every year from the average English Secondary school, before the pandemic. The number of young people aged 18 who are NEET was as high at the beginning of this 2021 as it was 15 years ago. In these figures there are a disproportionate number of disadvantaged young people, include those known to the care system, young offenders, young people educated in alternative provision, such as Pupil Referral Units, and young carers.
High quality tracking of young people at the transition points of 16 and 18 and beyond as part of a CEIAG strategy is crucial to target support for young people. Knowing where young people are and their situation is the first step in providing support. The current duties for Local Authorities to track young people should be strengthened and there is an argument that the responsibility should be extended by another 12 months to aid the transition to adult services. Tracking is more than establishing the whereabouts of young people, it must be an integral part of the support that is available to young people, so that the right interventions can be made by trained professionals.
Local skills strategy and policy, including LSIPs, Levelling Up plans and funding should recognise, value and invest in CEIAG. This must not be limited to CEIAG as merely a NEET prevention measure; this should build a universal system of CEIAG support for young people to enable them to progress through education and training, inclusive of all routes to career progression.
The amendment to the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill seeks to strengthen the Baker Clause, which is both welcome and necessary; unless schools are held accountable many will not prioritise this. However, the fact that a Baker Clause is required at all demonstrates the inadequacies of entrusting CEIAG to schools without clearer accountability and sufficient funding to ensure that all young people are provided with the information, advice and guidance needed to understand the wider range of options available. The Post-16 Skills Bill falls far short of the expectations from the Skills for Jobs White Paper in regard to its coverage of CEIAG.
Careers Enterprise Company and National Careers Service - Maximising Public Investment
The Careers and Enterprise Company and the National Careers Service have separate functions and are configured differently and both have important roles to play: the CEC is an incorporated Company which acts as a facilitating agency for schools and colleges; the NCS is a direct service provider contracted out by ESFA to local Prime Contractors.
The NCS provides a web and telephone enabled service for young people pre-18, which is not well utilised largely due to the fact that it is not well marketed from the centre and there are limitations placed on what NCS providers can do in this regard. In addition the payment-by -results model of contracting does not recognise outcome payments for work with young people. Equally NCS is not resourced or required to provide direct services to young people under the age of 18. Most NCS activity is focused on providing direct access to careers advice for adults in the labour market. A review of NCS capability and funding could help in providing coherent support to young people in schools and colleges as well as to adults in a dynamic and fast moving labour market.
The CEC has helped to raise the profile and quality of CEIAG in schools and colleges through the adoption and promotion of the Gatsby Benchmarks, but progress towards implementation across schools has been slow. On average schools are only meeting half of the Gatsby Benchmarks with less than half reporting that they are able to offer a stable careers programme (43%), address the needs of all students (38%), offer experiences of workplaces (36%) or offer the required range of encounters with further and higher education (33%). As the roll out of Careers Hubs continues attention should be given to the limitations of annual funding cycles, which often are late in the year making it difficult for LEPs and other local partners to plan effectively.
The important Gatsby Benchmark 8, which underpins the provision of Personal Guidance, is hampered by the lack of funding to schools and colleges to provide impartial and professional careers guidance for all young people at key transition points. The question as to whether greater investment is needed to create a robust system of CEIAG must also be considered in terms of its potential return. A recent study indicates the overall midpoint partial Return on Investment of Personal Guidance is 4.4 x for the Exchequer and 9.1x for society/individuals.
This must go beyond the establishment of Careers Leader responsibilities for existing school/college staff and focus on the supply of professional advisers at Level 6 to all students by providing direct funding or commissioned services available to schools and colleges. This now needs to be scaled up, rolled out and funded in in all localities. We need to engage local Careers providers where these exist and enable their development where they don’t.
There is scope to look at how both CEC and NCS can combine more effectively to provide a seamless support to young people as well as adults in need of careers advice and support through the different phases of education, training and work. This includes young people who are not participating in education, training and work (NEET), in liaison with local authorities. There are distinct benefits to having an all-age careers education, information and guidance capability as is the case in Scotland and Wales. Careers England believes that there should be greater investment in CEIAG, but also advocates for consideration of how greater efficiency and economy of scale could be realised by reviewing how current public funding is used to bring about a more coherent and universal approach to CEIAG provision in supporting the Lifetime Skills agenda.
In summary Careers England urges the Education Committee to recognise the following vital recommendations to improve the scope and quality of careers support provided to young people and adults:
 Over a third of adults (34%) are looking to change job or career in the next 2 years. The Learning and Work Institute’s survey finds that over (69%) of the people looking to switch say they will need to develop their skills to do so.
 Edge Foundation (February 2022). Investigating the potential use of long-term school and college destination measureshttps://www.edge.co.uk/research/projects/research-reports/investigating-the-potential-use-of-long-term-school-and-college-destination-measures/
 NCS operates by providing outcome-based funding for specific priority groups of adults, with a lower tariff for all adults outside these groups. Despite NCS prime contractors having to agree local KPIs with LEPs this does not allow for a variation to priority groups as set out in the national blueprint. A review is needed.
 The Careers & Enterprise Company. (2021). Compass 2020-2021 headlines. https://www.careersandenterprise.co.uk/our-evidence/evidence-and-reports/trends-in-careers-education-2021/
 Percy, C. (2020). Personal Guidance in English Secondary Education: An initial Return-on-Investment estimate. London: The Careers & Enterprise Company