The chair of the Commons Education Select Committee, Robert Halfon, has expressed “deep concerns” about what he called the “ludicrously wasteful” Careers and Enterprise Company.
The Careers and Enterprise Company was set up four years ago by the then education secretary, Nicky Morgan, as part of a bid to improve careers advice for young people.
“I don’t doubt for a second that the company is passionate about its work, and that there are good people working there. But I’m worried they are not providing us with value for money,” he said.
Former skills minister Mr Halfon criticised the company for spending £200,000 on two conferences, including one at a children’s play centre.
He added: “Last year, it spent £200,000 of taxpayers' money in a time of austerity on two conferences – money which should have gone to the front line. One cost around £150,000 and the other was about £50,000 and held at KidZania.
“Salaries are too high – its CEO earns almost as much as the prime minister. And it has spent £900,000 on research, with another projected [to cost] £200,000 a year to come.”
Lack of outcomes data
Mr Halfon said there was a lack of data on outcomes from the Careers and Enterprise Company’s work, including its education and training decisions, or employment outcomes for young people.
He said: “It does not always take its own advice. Take mentoring: its latest accounts suggest it has spent £4 million on mentoring.
"In one of its own research reports, it says: ‘Few effects can be seen from mentoring relationships that last for less than six months. There is a widespread consensus that a year-long relationship constitutes a quality mentoring interaction.’ And yet several of the programmes it funds fall far short of this.”
Mr Halfon has called for more oversight of the organisation.
'No one doubts scale of challenge'
Careers and Enterprise Company chief executive Claudia Harris said careers education had been underperforming for decades in England, so "no one doubts the scale of the task".
She added: "Our organisation has been in operation for just over three years. In that time, Ofsted has found that careers support to young people has improved, noting 'the current picture is much more encouraging than has been the case in the past; careers guidance within schools is improving'.
“We recently published the most comprehensive assessment of careers education to date, which showed that careers education in England is improving across all of the Gatsby Benchmarks. In particular, careers education is stronger in the most disadvantaged communities. Two thousand schools are now part of our network; we’ve provided training to nearly 1,400 careers leaders, established 20 careers hubs across the country and invested millions in frontline providers.
“The improvements we have seen have been achieved through hard work and collaboration between schools, colleges and employers, and by putting evidence at the heart of careers support. We are proud to have played a part in this improvement, and we welcome any external oversight of our work.”