The future of careers guidance at the iCeGS Annual Lecture 2011

We recently exhibited at and attended the iCeGS (International Centre for Guidance Studies) Annual Lecture which took place at the University of Derby on 16th June 2011. This was the 13th iCeGS Annual Lecture and for those with a superstitious nature, the original date for the event had been postponed due to snow. Unfortunately, John Hayes (Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning) was unable to attend at the 11th hour, due to ‘Parliamentary duties’.

Mr Hayes did provide his “The future vision for careers guidance in England” address by video and Susan Pember, Dept for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), did a good job of standing in, expanding on what the Minister had said and fielding questions – more on that later.

So what were the main points of John Hayes’ video?

The importance of a “first class advice and guidance service, crucial for the new world of skills” was once again championed. Mr Hayes made reference to the communications that were sent out in April, clarifying the position regarding the present and forthcoming statutory duties for schools and local authorities. 

He reiterated that in the brave new world it will be head teachers’ responsibility to ensure their students have access to “independent and impartial careers guidance” and added that “careers advice must be at the heart of what schools do”.

Ofsted will be asked to “ensure schools take this duty seriously” and a “destination targets measure” will be introduced, as it is “important that schools are held to account”.

In terms of the National Careers Service (NCS), young people in and out of school will have access to a free helpline and online information (website). Adults will also have access to these, plus there is the provision for face-to face interventions. Both the audience and the panel were critical of the Department for Education’s (DfE) deafening silence.

Expanding on this, the general consensus is that John Hayes, David Willets and BIS are passionate and care greatly about careers guidance and the need to create a first class universal careers service in the NCS.

However, the fly in the ointment seems to be the DfE, which is reluctant to bring any serious funding or will to the party.

So, at the end of the Lecture I had gained more knowledge about the NCS, but also had a lot more questions. It would be wrong to question Mr Hayes’ dedication to careers guidance as he clearly cares very deeply about the issue, but to me it comes back to the following fundamentals:

Funding: creating and sustaining a first class careers guidance service requires serious investment. Unless the DfE has a change of heart, this looks unlikely.

Impartiality: Ofsted being asked to ensure all schools take their careers guidance responsibility seriously is welcomed, but this needs to be properly assessed and monitored if it’s to be effective.

Availability: a National Careers Service surely needs to be high profile and easy to access to ensure it meets the needs of all. Having a helpline and website is great, but included in this equation needs to be face-to-face provision for young people outside of school. Sharon Pember mentioned a co-location concept, which will hopefully help to ensure the service has some high street presence.

Finally, I would say it comes down this: either we pay now and ensure people have access to high quality careers advice and guidance to help them make those key decisions regarding education, training and employment, or we pay a far higher price in putting things right later.

Jason Owen, UK Sales Manager

(Please note:  these are my personal views and do not reflect those of CASCAiD)

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