Careers Guidance in the Spotlight

It’s been a very busy year in terms of careers policy developments and guidance and it feels, not before time, that the spotlight is definitely on careers and its importance in terms of improving social mobility and addressing the needs of the UK workforce. This time last year, the long awaited government Careers Strategy came out, which outlined the government’s plan for raising the quality of careers provision in England, followed in January by further guidance aimed specifically at the schools sector. In February this year it was the turn of colleges with the release of the government’s Careers Guidance: Guidance for further education colleges and Sixth Form Colleges document, which was updated in October, with further guidance on how colleges can meet the Gatsby benchmarks. In terms of guidance on how colleges can meet the requirements, last month the Careers and Enterprise Company published the research paper What Works in Careers Provision in Colleges and a Gatsby Benchmark Toolkit for Colleges, which feature a number of our college partners as case studies of good careers practice, including Lambeth College, CONEL and the South Thames Colleges Group.

Few in the careers profession will argue with plans to raise the status of careers guidance or the rather ambitious goal, set out in the Government’s Careers strategy, to make it world class. Using the 8 Gatsby benchmarks, developed by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, to set a standard of excellence in careers guidance have also been well received by careers professionals.  Where there has been criticism of the government’s plans, it has been that at present there are no additional funds provided to enable schools and colleges help meet the requirements, which include an appointed careers leader in every institution. There are capacity issues in terms of meeting some of the benchmarks, specifically benchmarks 6, experiences of workplaces and benchmark 8, personal guidance.  Focusing on the latter, the strategy states every learner should have at least one such interview by the end of their study programme. A number of our FE college partners have several thousand 16-18 students studying a wide range of courses. Even with colleges who have several qualified careers advisers this is an enormous task. If we make the assumption that a guidance interview would last approximately 30 minutes it doesn’t need a mathematician to work out that this isn’t realistic unless further government funding is made available.

I’ve highlighted issues with meeting benchmarks 6 and 8 on several occasions with the Careers and Enterprise Company, most recently when asked to review a draft of the Gatsby Benchmark Toolkit for Colleges. At present there is little in the way of guidance about how colleges with considerable numbers of 16-18 year olds can work towards meeting these benchmark requirements. We need, in the absence of additional resource, to think innovatively about how we go about it and more clarity as well as  guidance from the CEC in how to square this circle. For example, does e-advice count or short 10-15 minute interventions? Does guidance from non-level 6 advisers count – i.e. coaches, tutors? What do we actually mean then when we talk about careers guidance interviews and how are they defined?

Looking ahead, Linking London will continue to keep partners up to date with the latest developments as well as providing opportunities to explore how to address issues and share good practice at future events and practitioner group meetings. This will include continuing to develop closer links with the Careers and Enterprise Company as well as City Hall, who have recently released the Mayor of London’s Careers for London Action Plan. This ambitious plan sets out the Mayor’s vision for careers provision in London, what City Hall will do to help realise this vision and the vital role that other organisations, including employers, schools, colleges and universities, but also government need to play.  We will be inviting both the CEC and representatives from City Hall to input at future events in the New Year and will be working closely with our college and HE partners to work collaboratively to help meet the benchmarks and ensure our college learners receive high quality careers advice and guidance.

Andrew Jones, Director, Linking London

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