Sleepwalking into a crisis?
Dr Deidre Hughes of the ICG writes on the IGC web site ‘ Whilst the careers profession had fully braced itself for significant reductions in budgets it had not envisaged, nor had central government, a ‘knee jerk’ reaction by Local Authorities to use the accounting mechanism of Area Based Grants to decimate a ‘front-line’ service for young people, parents, teachers and employers. The expectation was that this year a 3.6% efficiency savings across the board was expected (confirmed by the Department for Education); instead cuts ranging from 11% – 45% have been announced by Local Authorities. Formal notification of Careers Adviser posts being ‘at risk’ have been served in the name of ‘efficiency savings’. From Cornwall to Northumberland the trial of destruction is well underway and the critical question is who is in a position to stop this?’
Dr Hughes suspects that some form of burden shifting is taking place with an agenda by Local Authorities for schools and academies to add ‘impartial careers guidance’ to their long list of new responsibilities.
Good careers guidance enables individuals to make better choices about learning and careers; it improves the “match” between people and jobs (which is good for firms and individuals); it enables education and training institutions to respond more creatively to real need; and reduces waste on courses which have little economic or personal benefit. The outcome is individuals and communities in greater control of their lives, and a reduction in the inefficient “micromanagement” of education and training by the state.
Make no mistake, this Government understands the importance of impartial Careers advice. Nick Gibb , David Willetts and John Hayes are all ministers who have championed the importance of impartial advice and guidance throughout individuals careers and not just at 14, 16 and 18. Most schools are not capable of offering independent professional advice and local authorities who have overall responsibility are cutting back. Almost daily authorities are announcing significant cuts to Connexions and with it careers advice and guidance. Professor Tony Watts recently spelled out the dangers in the Guardian. Research evidence he said ‘ demonstrates that services provided solely by schools lack impartiality and have weak links with the labour market.’ The young people’s services including careers advice are ‘at risk of being decimated by the local government cuts’, he warns. So, before the all-age service can even be constructed, its foundations are in danger of being destroyed. His solution is for the statutory careers service within Connexions 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 he stresses needs to be done very quickly indeed before it is too late. Ministers need to clarify policy and provide reassurance and commitment regarding their intentions . If we want an all age universal service we absolutely cannot afford to lose from the system the very people who can make it happen – experienced professional careers advisers.