Focus on re-professionalising careers advice

But still too  few details on the  new service or its funding with time running out


At the end of the third quarter in 2010, the figure for those aged between 16 and 24 in England  not in employment education or training, was 1.026 million. Of those, around  160,000 are in the north-west-the highest figure of any of the UK regions.  Youth unemployment remains high  and even well qualified graduates are finding it hard to get jobs that require a degree. Between July and September last year, 20% of new graduates were out of work, according to  the Office for National Statistics . This means the proportion of recent graduates who are unemployed has almost doubled since the start of the recession in 2008.

Meanwhile, the Government has abolished the EMA designed to support disadvantaged youth  and to help keep them engaged  in education and training   but has yet to announce how much money will be available under its new discretionary fund that will replace the EMA . We do  know though that this will be a fraction of the £560m available under the EMA scheme and will be distributed by schools colleges and training providers  . It could be argued that   our youth  need access now  to sound independent advice, on what their options might be for training and careers,  more than ever before. But   the sobering fact is that  much  Careers advice and support has been given  through Connexions partnerships   and these are currently suffering cut backs by local authorities as their central government grants shrink. A survey by CYPN found  cuts across England averaging 13 per cent and the worst-hit authorities preparing to slash a whopping 25 per cent from their childrens services  budget. In  some areas though  Connexions services are being cut by as much as 50% and the careers guidance expertise within these partnerships is in danger of being lost to the system.

Connexions funding was not ring fenced and as authorities prioritise, it is youth services that bear the brunt of any  cuts. The other source of  advice, schools, is seen to be  wholly inadequate by most professionals (and indeed Ministers, see below). The Coalition Government has promised an all age  professional careers service from 13  and is consulting on this  but this seems a long way off, and it is not clear where the funding will come from.

The new Education Bill which has received its First Reading in the Commons   requires schools under its Section 4 ‘ to ensure that all registered pupils at school are provided with independent careers guidance during the relevant phase of their education’

In his review of higher education, Lord Browne stated that careers guidance should be “delivered by certified professionals who are well informed, benefit from continued training and professional development and whose status in schools is respected and valued.” Careers professionals have been consulting on the future of careers guidance  with the Government and ministers seem to understand the importance of independent guidance, and not just for young people. Careers England and the Careers  Profession Task Force have joined in seeking to  advance moves to ensure the future  quality and status of the profession, essentially agreeing with Lord Brownes conclusion.

Minister John Hayes, in a recent Commons Adjournment  debate on Careers Advice  (13 January)acknowledged that teachers in schools  were often not best positioned to give careers advice adding  “ That is why we need independent, high quality, up to date and impartial advice and guidance for all young people.”. Hayes also talked of the need  for  “ “re-professionalising careers advice for the people who give it”. Adding “ I say to careers professionals that this is not a threat but a serious opportunity, as our commitment to that service and their profession is unrivalled.”  On the all age service the Government plans to introduce by 2012. Hayes said “  in the forthcoming education Bill (ie  just published) we intend to introduce a duty for schools to secure independent, impartial guidance for their pupils, but they will be free to decide how that guidance is secured-through the all-age service or through another provider, all of whom will be expected to meet exacting quality standards.” The Government envisages a partnership model in which schools will work closely with expert careers  advisers , as they do not have the expertise in –house

Hayes is also keen to exploit technology. He said “  Information, advice and guidance will be available online. In those terms, we will build on the work of the last Government, who invented the Next Step service, which we were able to implement this summer and will provide a basis for a high-quality online product as it metamorphoses into the core of the technology offer that the all-age service will provide.”

For those concerned with  what will happen in the transition to an all age careers service, Hayes sought to reassure them  saying  “During the transition period, we will support local authorities to work through any changes in local service provision that may be necessary as a result of the establishment of the all-age service, involving, where appropriate, Connexions service providers. In 2011-12, the early intervention grant will support transitional arrangements to ensure that young people have access to impartial guidance in advance of the all-age careers service being fully operational.”

Andrew Miller the Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Leston, is clearly worried about the transition and the effects of Connexions lay offs on an all age careers service and asked Hayes to write to local authorities to ensure they meet their statutory duties and ensure a seamless transition to an all age service. Hayes  agreed to consult his  officials on this option. Miller has good grounds for concern. The ball is effectively in the  local authorities court and the Secretary of State has not much leverage to ensure that his wishes are carried through. Local authorities hold the purse strings and are trying to get more from less.

Resourcing for the all-age careers service is  currently under consideration Ministers tell us . And details of the funding that will be available in 2011-12 and in subsequent years, including the split between the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education, will  be announced in due course.

Although the Government is currently  consulting stakeholders on these proposals,  how this service will look and where the funding will come from remains worryingly  opaque,  at this late stage-and this is causing some concern among guidance professionals.


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