Gerard Liston, an enterprise and employability consultant, told Schools Week,  that  he had “real concerns” about a “lack of progress and lack of sustainability” at the CEC, and said its funding – £70 million over this parliament – would be better spent on training teachers to deliver guidance in classrooms.

“There is a real limit to what can be achieved in a school through one day a month with a volunteer from business,” he said, adding that he was disappointed with the “lack of results and the superficial nature” of projects from CEC so far.’

There are fears that the CEC, is front loaded, meaning its heavy on marketing itself but light on delivery. Within a year of its establishment the then Minister Sam Gyimah talked of significant achievements omitting to  mention  what they were. Inputs are clear outputs less so. There is nothing on the CEC web site about the impact it is having on the guidance offered to  young people.  There is also a  perception developing that it is almost entirely focused on employer engagement  and ‘enterprise’ rather  than in  ensuring that pupils have easy access to professional independent guidance, including face to face guidance which evidence tells us  benefits the most disadvantaged more than anyone else  . Nor does it seem to understand what Careers ‘education’ means.    Its beginning to look like an expanding  Quango, with  as much being  spent on its  25  staff , (at least three are on six figure salaries)  its contractors  and  central London rent, as is going in to  ensuring that the quality of professional  guidance is raised throughout the system, that guidance is no longer a lottery and that the end user, the pupil , confronted with  hard and complex  choices, benefits directly.  Its most recent research confirms what we already knew, that with so much information out there pupils find it all rather bewildering, with information overload- and don’t know where to start. Which is precisely why many of  them, indeed most, would benefit from  a  meaningful,   face to face chat with a guidance professional. Very few get this though. Instead employers are being turned into proxy guidance specialists, but without the  necessary qualifications, information  and knowledge to offer real support, or guidance.

Meanwhile, pupils making crucial early choices about what routes and qualifications to take are too often not able to make informed choices. Putting an employer or Enterprise Adviser into a school does nothing to address this.  No surprise then that social mobility remains stagnant. As Dr Deirdre Hughes , a leading Guidance expert, has said “It’s great that they want to be known as an evidence-based organisation .But we don’t need to have a quango producing what’s there already. What we need is to get independent, impartial careers advice back into communities” Hughes would like to see the CEC  funding making a difference at grassroots level. Wouldn’t we all.

So rather  than paying lip service   to the Gatsby  benchmarks and cherry picking, CEC  should revisit Number 8 ,on Personal Guidance. It says:

‘Every student 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 students but should be timed to meet their individual needs.’ Why has the CEC done so little to make this happen?

And  why is it paying out so much taxpayers money to its senior members of staff ,  with such limited accountability,  and without addressing  the most fundamental challenge- to transform the quality,  accessibility and scope of professional guidance available  to our  young people .

See Schools Week Article

£70m government-funded careers company insists it has ‘achieved a lot’





  1. Hi

    I’ve just come across this blog. It’s reassuring to see that I’m not the only one questioning what’s come out of CEC. Althhough Schools Week did correct the online article, there was an unfortunate mi-quote … although this did permit some social media discussion. I added comment in a few places:

    The reporter unfortunately tried to concisely paraphrase my description of the Unlocking Talent & Potential programme, which came out as ‘… training teachers to deliver careers guidance in classrooms’. This is definitely neither what I believe nor what we promote.

    Our aim is to build the capacity of teaching staff to bring their subjects to life in partnership with employers (i.e. Gatsby benchmark #4), which is something rather different. And I also agree with Deirdre’s sentiments about independent, impartial careers advice (i.e. Gatsby benchmark #8).

    But, I do own the criticism about CEC; criticisms that I have voiced to some of their senior leaders, so shouldn’t have come as a surprise. To summarise simply:

    Lack of progress:
    Nothing on the CEC website about impact of activities on young people or measures of success and accountability

    Lack of sustainability:
    EA networks co-ordinated by ECs, currently funded by CEC …. and then? (Who remembers the ‘Schools’ Enterprise Education Network’?)

    Investment that perpetuates dependency on providers or targeting NEETS vs inclusive, embedded and involving true partnership with business partners

    • Yes useful thank you. My sense is that quite a lot of people in the sector have their concerns, but are careful about criticizing a quango that has some influence and can or could be a source of income… There are also numerous quality and practical issues around employer engagement and the ‘inspiration’ agenda. Remember also that CEC was aiming to get support from business and to be self-funding after a couple of years… Given that its establishment was announced in December 2014 we are coming up to its second anniversary. Certain irony therefore in a company that has Enterprise’ in its name, but doesnt seem to be able to show enough to finance itself… too much money going into overheads and salaries too little into what happens at the interface between young people and those who can support them in making crucial decisions and choices that will impact on their opportunities in life ..

      • I’ve been in touch with CEC since the time they were using space at DfE, so have watched their development over time. I’ve also shared my concerns when talking with them – including when considering the role they advertised for Head of Education & Community Outreach.

        Although they won’t have been pleased about the unmanaged PR coverage, I am determined to try and model what ‘good’ can look like – addressing the my concerns: Measured impact, sustainability and embedded activity.

        Let’s see what the coming months bring – particularly with a new Secretary of State and Minister for Skills/Careers.

        Feel free to call at any point, if you wish: 07973 837 342.

  2. So, two years ago the CEC was aiming to get support from business and to be self-funding after a couple of years. Reminds me of two years ago when Plotr (careers website and subsidised recruitment channel for big businesses) got the final £1.3m payment on the £2m of start-up funding it got from the taxpayer. Plotr said it would be self-funding with support from business. Fast forward two years to October 2016 and Plotr announced was insolvent and called in the liquidators.

    Those “self-funding with support from business” claims are easy to make, but hard to deliver on and sustain.

    • I absolutely agree, Jill. The article quoted Deirdre Hughes describing CEC as a ‘quango’ and I fear that they are believing their own promotion too much, which is always risky.

      I was speaking at a regional event about ‘careers in the curriculum’ yesterday, where a senior HMI described the work of CEC as ‘tokenism’ and the head of an EBP descibed the organisation as ‘over-engineered’.

      Let’s hope CEC become more lean (sustainable) and listen more carefully to stakeholders and experts (responsive).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s