The careers service in Fife has no idea whether it is an effective organisation or not. This is the major conclusion reached by one of the most hard-hitting of any reports to have been published on Scotland's 17 careers companies. The review, by Alex Neil, an independent consultant, states: "There is an absence of any systematic, independent and reliable evidence which can measure the impact and effectiveness of Fife Careers."
The report calls for systems that "more effectively measure and monitor (the company's) impact on both young people's career destinations and on employers' success in filling vacancies".
A startling finding is that 37 per cent of employers had not heard of the careers service, a level of ignorance that rose to more than 50 per cent in Glenrothes and Leven. Alec Thomson, chairman of the careers company board, admitted to being "perturbed" at the lack of business awareness particularly given Fife's compact nature. The position has, if anything, deteriorated since 1992 when more than 80 per cent of Fife employers surveyed said they had heard of the careers service.
Mr Thomson, who also chairs Fife Council's education committee, said: "We need a much stronger system for measuring outcomes, particularly the effectiveness of working with school pupils and leavers. It is also clear we have to sell ourselves more vigorously to employers."
The Neil report makes controversial recommendations for a radical overhaul of the service, in which the careers company would change from being a direct provider to an "enabler", contracting out its school work to the education authority and after-school activities to the employment service.
The recommendation for after-school work to be contracted out to the employment service is partly intended to fit in with the Government's welfare-to-work programme, which will increase the career-oriented contact the young unemployed have with jobcentres.
The report also proposes a streamlining of contacts with employers who have to deal with Fife Careers, the Fast-Trac skills programme and the Employment Service. In-depth interviews with six employers concluded that the careers service "needs to be much more proactive, particularly in servicing small businesses". One large company preferred to deal directly with school guidance staff, and one multinational refuses to deal with Fife Careers because of "the low quality of service they provide". But another two were reported as satisfied.
Mr Neil recommends six steps for monitoring the careers company's performance and eight targets to measure its success including the destinations of young people up to three years after they leave school. Mr Thomson said he did not wish to pre-empt any decision by the careers company board but thought it would set up a task group to address the report's criticisms.
Special 12-page report on the careers service, TES2 pull-out