Will it help point the way?

The Lords Social Mobility Committee has finished taking evidence in its inquiry into  social mobility in the transition from school to work ,and will be publishing its report in March.

Many organisations including Careers England, the Edge Foundation, City and Guilds and  Pearson, as well as  experts such as Deirdre Hughes,   submitted written evidence to the Committee .which can be accessed at

A trawl through this evidence suggests that Young people are approaching the labour market with a lack of preparation, support and guidance. Information, advice and guidance are too often neither professional, nor impartial nor comprehensive. A lack of guidance at crucial waystations in their lives, mean  that many young people,  particularly the most disadvantaged, are ill equipped to make informed decisions and choices to maximise their  life opportunities -which is bad for them personally, but also for our economy, skills base and  for the governments own  social inclusion NEET, and  social mobility agendas.

It is probable that the Committee will deliver a similar conclusion in its report. But key, will be what it recommends. The government is currently developing a careers strategy which will, if you follow Ministers current narrative, rely heavily on employers engagement with schools, enterprise advisers and work experience. What is actually required is a balanced approach which includes these elements,  but also, crucially,   easier access for young people to high quality, independent  professional careers advice and guidance and more face to face advice from  professionals  (rather than just via the web and phone) which is  of particular value  to the most disadvantaged students.

A leading expert on Careers education and  guidance ,Dr Deirdre Hughes ,wrote in FE Week recently  ‘A key element missing in all recent announcements from the Department for Education (DfE) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is the role of career development professionals trained and qualified to provide independent and impartial careers guidance.’ Dr Tristram Hooley  another expert on careers guidance  in written evidence, in January,  to the  Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy, noted  that recent careers policy has been strongly focused on increasing young people’s exposure to employers and employment, and that there is an extensive evidence base which supports the importance of building strong links between education and employment, but,  he added, ‘this focus has been pursued: (i) at the expense of a recognition of the role that career professionals can play; and (ii) without regard for the fact that most young people move from school to further learning rather than directly to work.’ Quite.

In addition, its widely accepted that  resources within the system, across departments, could, be much better  targeted and utilized to support young people, more effectively, in this much neglected area. Will this happen?   It might if the government does what it has promised to do-that is follow broadly the recommendations of the Gatsby report ‘Good Career Guidance’ 2014.

Recommendation 8 of this  influential report says:

 ‘Every pupil should have opportunities for guidance interviews with a career adviser, who could be internal (a member of school staff) or external, provided they are trained to an appropriate level. These should be available whenever significant study or career choices are being made. They should be expected for all pupils but should be timed to meet their individual needs.  Well that  couldn’t be more clear, could it?

But if one looks at the current narrative from Ministers and the Careers and Enterprise Company its all about Recommendation 5 of this report :‘ ‘Every pupil should have multiple opportunities to learn from employers about work, employment and the skills that are valued in the workplace. This can be through a range of enrichment activities including visiting speakers, mentoring and enterprise schemes.’

Will Ministers be true to the report, its spirit and its recommendations or will they cherry pick, one wonders ?   If they choose the former route, then there is a good chance that their strategy might work. But if they take the latter route, then it is hard to see that much will change,  in the guidance sector ,which will harm young people’s life opportunities, and the government’s own social , employment  and economic  agendas.



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