ALL AGE CAREERS SERVICE?
Professor Watts fears plans may be stymied by local cuts
Professor Tony Watts, who is regarded as an leading international expert on information advice and guidance issues, remarked in a Guardian article recently (29 June) that while plans to develop a much stronger Careers advice service for adults are to be implemented under the title Next Step , this new service for adults needs to provide a strong basis on which to build the promised all-age service, integrated with the careers services for young people currently provided under the aegis of the Connexions brand. He fears though that such plans may be stymied by significant funding cuts, more generally across all local authority budgets . Connexions and careers advice funding is not ring fenced. Watts wrote that despite some attempts to reform the service (a Review is to report in September) ‘ .. it is clear that some local authorities are planning massive cuts to their Connexions services. Already there is significant disparity in the extent of such services across the country’. He believes that all careers advice funding should be placed under the Next Step initiative.
Watts has long been an advocate of a universal, all age, impartial careers guidance service. Individuals need informed professional independent advice, he and others have argued , not just when they are 14,16 or 18 but well into adulthood and indeed throughout their careers .This will benefit the individuals concerned but the economy too, and will save public money over the longer run and this is backed by international evidence. His main gripe is that careers advice under Connexions has focused on those threatened with exclusion, to the detriment of young people in the mainstream. Ministers David Willetts and John Hayes have created the right mood music preparing the ground for an all age service and indeed the BIS has put the first building blocks in place. But Watts sees a big threat on the funding side and this needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. He wrote ‘.. the two arms of government with a stake in this particular manifesto commitment need to work in concert if the commitment is to be delivered. The statutory careers service within Connexions needs to be removed from the Area Based Grant to local authorities, and its funding integrated with the new Next Step service for adults. And this needs to be done very quickly, before it is too late.’ Dr Deirdre Hughes of the ICG, responding to Watts concerns on the Guardian web site , wrote ‘ There is now an urgent need for decisiveness and action where Ministers and policy makers consciously avoid working in Departmental silos and pool their resources to create an all-age careers service framework. Lead by example; failure to do so will waste scarce public resources and erode individuals’ access to jobs and opportunities in fast changing labour markets!’ It appears that a number of advisers redundancies are in the pipeline and the universal entitlement for pupils is now thought to be under real threat