Careers advice: DfE 'must fund a long-term strategy'

The government needs to set out a framework for a stable, longer-term careers strategy, says Skills Commission

Kate Parker

Careers advice: DfE 'must invest in a long-term careers strategy'

The government must invest in a long-term strategy for careers advice, information and guidance, according to a new report published today. 

The report, Transition to Ambition: Navigating the careers maze, has been published by Policy Connect’s Skills Commission and calls on the government to set out a framework for a stable, longer-term careers strategy, and makes nine recommendations, including working with phone companies to allow learners to access educational and careers resources without using their data allowance. 

Robert Halfon: Ofsted told to 'do its job' on school careers advice

Lord Baker: Schools must give students FE advice

Skills for Jobs White Paper: What does it propose?

In the foreword to the report, co-chairs of the commission Lord Jim Knight of Weymouth; Nicola Richards, Conservative MP for West Bromwich East; and Dr Siobhan Neary, head of the International Centre for Guidance Studies, say careers information, advice and guidance (CIAG) is crucial as the country recovers from the pandemic and moves to a carbon net-zero economy and society.

Call to invest in careers advice

They say:  “A strong conclusion from our evidence was the need for a longer-term perspective by the government. The importance of the CIAG system at this pivotal time of economic upheaval, as we recover from the pandemic and move to a net-zero economy and society, warrants an enduring strategy and associated action plan. 

“Government must harness the expertise of employers alongside education and careers professionals to advise on the most effective interventions to support appropriate education, employment, training and CIAG. Similarly, the nominal end of the pandemic will not end the need to tackle digital poverty – a long-term strategy is necessary to ensure that no one is excluded from the digital world, which is an increasingly fundamental part of our lives in the 21st century." 

Strengthening the Baker Clause

The co-authors warn that the funding and time constraints faced by FE providers mean that it is “difficult to offer personalised, one-to-one careers information, advice and guidance to all students”. 

Therefore, they recommend long-term funding for careers advice, as well as making assessment of schools’ compliance with the Baker Clause a mandatory part of the Ofsted inspection process. 

Many in the sector have also called for a strengthening of the Baker Clause, which says that schools must allow colleges and FE providers in to talk to their students about their options.

Chair of the Commons Education Select Committee Robert Halfon called on Ofsted to "do its job properly on careers eduction" and said that too many schools were being given “outstanding” ratings when they were not complying with the Baker Clause. Last month, Lord Baker ​​called for the clause to become a statutory duty. 

An updated document published by the government last week on careers education said: “There has been no change to careers legislation. The associated duties and equivalent requirements in funding agreements continue to rest with schools and colleges. The department asks all maintained schools and academies to pay particular attention to their legal requirements under the provider access duty, commonly known as the ‘Baker Clause’, and make sure they have put in place arrangements to comply fully with this law.

“Schools must provide opportunities for a range of education and training providers to access all Year 8 to Year 13 pupils to inform them about approved technical education qualifications and apprenticeships. Ofsted’s school inspection handbook has been updated to highlight the importance of schools understanding and meeting the requirements of this legislation, as careers information, education, advice and guidance is one of the key areas that informs inspectors’ overall judgements on personal development.”

In the Skills for Jobs White Paper, published in January, the Department for Education said “clear and outcomes-focused careers information” was fundamental to the success of reforms, and added that “impartial, lifelong careers advice and guidance” should be available to people regardless of age, circumstance or background.

Careers information, advice and guidance: The recommendations in full

A stable, long-term careers strategy 

The government should set the framework for a stable, longer-term careers strategy. This framework should have the following elements:

a) The Department for Education must maintain its 2017-2020 careers strategy for a lifespan of at least five more years, to give some much-needed stability to the education system in its work on implementing the strategy.

b) The creation of an employer-led careers strategy advisory board, to provide long-term leadership and strategic direction on national careers strategy and government policies regarding careers, skills, education, training and employment. This should have a right of access to the secretaries of state for education and business, energy and industrial strategy, in recognition of the potential contribution to business and the economy.

c) Adequate longer-term funding for the CIAG system should be made available in the spending review 2021, with a parallel review to ensure that best value is achieved from ring-fenced funding for careers services in schools and colleges.

A key part of all Plan for Jobs schemes

Careers advice and guidance should be a constituent part of all Plan for Jobs schemes, to ensure that these schemes are as useful as possible for those undertaking them. The Department for Work and Pensions should also review its processes and take any action necessary to ensure that work coaches are consistently referring clients to the National Careers Service when it is evident that they need or would benefit from receiving careers information, advice and guidance.

Free education and careers resources on mobile data 

The government must work with telecommunications companies to coordinate and enforce the zero rating of educational and careers resources on mobile data, so that the use of these resources does not count towards users’ mobile data allocation. This could be paid for by a percentage of telecommunications companies’ profits.

The collection of job vacancy data 

The Department for Education should ensure that the collection of job vacancy data piloted by LMI for All is implemented permanently as part of the portal, fully funded for the foreseeable future and actively promoted to all stakeholders who could make use of it, including the general public.

The Baker Clause

Ofsted inspectors must assess and report on schools’ compliance with the Baker Clause as a mandatory part of the inspection process. The Department for Education should issue supporting guidance on compliance and good practice, such as a minimum number of interactions between pupils and representatives from further education colleges or training providers throughout a pupil’s time at school, similar to those required with employers.

Graduate employability 

The government should create and fund a national scheme to help small businesses to hire a graduate for six to 12 months, boosting businesses’ adaptation to and recovery from Covid-19, while boosting graduates’ employability. This scheme could be delivered locally through business-facing organisations. This would align with the government’s provision of management and digital skills training for SMEs as part of its Help to Grow scheme. In the future (2022 onwards), this could be funded through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and could be extended to non-graduates.

Lifelong learning loans

Lifelong learning loans must be made truly flexible, so that people can take out a loan to study a qualification at whatever level they need in order to boost their employability, even if they already have an equivalent qualification at that level.

National Careers Service’s priority groups

The Education and Skills Funding Agency must widen the National Careers Service’s priority groups for the rest of 2021-22, temporarily broadening them out to include people furloughed or at risk of redundancy regardless of their age, and those unemployed regardless of how long they have been unemployed. This will ensure that the large numbers of people affected by the pandemic can get back into work as quickly as possible, boosting the economic recovery from Covid-19.

Communication about the services of the National Careers Service

There must be much better communication of the existence and services of the National Careers Service, to ensure take-up of its services by all those who need careers advice and guidance. This should take the form of an ongoing national campaign but with a strong focus on communications activity at the local level as well.


A Department for Education spokesperson said: “It is vital that young people are informed about the wide range of options for them to reach their future career goals. We’ve published new careers guidance for all schools and colleges, to make sure that every young person is aware of all the options available to them, including apprenticeships and technical education opportunities instead of concentrating on the traditional university route.  We will consult soon on proposals to strengthen this legislation; more details will be released in due course.

“In our Skills for Jobs White Paper we also announced measures to deliver our long-term vision of a high-functioning, national careers system. We have appointed Professor Sir John Holman as independent strategic adviser on careers guidance advising on greater local and national alignment between the National Careers Service and the Careers and Enterprise Company, and will also advise on the development of a cohesive careers system for the long term.”

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateParkerTes

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