Government launches new careers strategy

The government's long-awaited careers strategy includes plans for a high-quality careers programme for every school and college

Stephen Exley

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Skills minister Anne Milton has launched the government's new careers strategy

The strategy is based around four key priorities: ensuring every school and college has a high-quality careers programme; providing opportunities for work experience; offering tailored support to students; and utilising appropriate sources of information about jobs and careers.

Under the strategy, every school and college will aim to have a dedicated careers leader in place by the start of the new school year (backed by £4 million of funding) who can "give advice on the best training routes and up-to-date information on the jobs market, helping young people make decisions about their future".

Another £5 million has been allocated to boosting careers support in the areas of the country most in need, to create 20 careers hubs that will "link schools and colleges with local universities and employers to help broaden pupils’ horizons". 

The strategy has been developed in partnership with the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and coordinated through an expanded role for the Careers and Enterprise Company.

Launching the strategy at the Careers Development Institute annual conference in Birmingham, skills minister Anne Milton said: “Without access to the best possible careers support, some people will miss out on the opportunities available.

“They will continue to be held back if they don’t have the right advice, at the right time to make informed decisions about their future, or may not have access to the broader experiences and role models to help them develop as people. 

“It matters to me that we give people from all backgrounds the best possible preparation to move into a job or training that enables them – whatever their background or wherever they live – to have a fulfilling life.”

Careers strategy: what does it say?

  • Dedicated careers leaders

"We will aim for every school and college to have a dedicated careers leader, with £4 million to provide training and support for at least 500 schools and colleges, so they can give the most up-to-date advice and fully prepare young people for the world of work."

  • Quality interactions between schools and businesses

"Secondary schools will be expected to provide pupils with at least one meaningful interaction with businesses every year, with a particular focus on employers from science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) industries to help deliver the high-skilled workers we need in these industries."

  • Careers hubs to be set up across the country

"To support young people in the most disadvantaged areas, £5 million funding will develop 20 careers hubs, led by the Careers and Enterprise Company. Hubs will link together schools, colleges, universities and local businesses to broaden the aspirations of young people."

  • Trials of careers activities in primary schools

"Backed by £2 million, these pilots will test out ways of engaging children from an early age on the wealth of careers available to them, helping to raise their aspirations. These trials will focus on some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country through the government’s opportunity areas programme."

  • Specialist advice for long-term unemployed and those with additional needs

"The National Careers Service will provide access to specialist support for adults who need it most, ensuring that we help create opportunities for everyone, no matter where they live or their background."

'Shift in attitude'

Last week, Ms Milton told Tes of her ambition to achieve a "shift in attitude" in how FE is perceived by parents.

"I’d like parental expectations to change," she said. "I’m the mother of four children, so that plays in there. I think a lot of parents expect their children to go to university, or feel their children are defined by going to university. I would like that to change.”

Speaking at the Careers Education and Guidance Summit in London last month, Ms Milton said careers advice was "the foundation upon which some of our biggest reforms will be built”. She added that getting the strategy right “is so important for the future success of this country”.

"This skills revolution is dependent upon people having the best possible advice about the career path they should take. One that makes the most of their talents," Ms Milton said. "Careers guidance is central to social mobility. It is about making sure that people from communities in every part of the land can develop the knowledge and confidence they need to progress. And have a clear plan to help them get there."

'Right language'

Catherine Sezen, senior policy manager at the Association of Colleges (AoC), said: “AoC welcomes today’s announcement as we have long called for young people to have access to informed and impartial careers advice and education embedded into the curriculum, from a much earlier age. Alongside the measures announced today, teachers need to be using the right language to promote different pathways and it is vital that all young people are aware of the exciting range of options that are available to them at the age of 16, whether academic, technical or apprenticeships."

She added the careers strategy needed to be flexible to recognise the good work that was already taking place in a number of schools and colleges across the country. 

And Fiona Aldridge, assistant director for research and development at the Learning and Work Institute said: “We are pleased to see that the long-awaited careers strategy, published today, recognises the importance of focusing on adults already in the workforce, as well as young people about to enter it. In our ever-changing labour market, it is imperative that adults are able to access timely and high quality support to make informed choices about developing their skills. While we believe that it is important that all adults have access to these opportunities, it is particularly critical for those in low paid and insecure work, as well as those out of work. To be effective, we must ensure that this is properly resourced.”

'Much more to do'

Kirstie Donnelly, managing director of City & Guilds added was was positive to see measures such as the promise to have a dedicated careers leader in place in each school by the start of the new school year, the 20 careers hubs in disadvantaged areas and the pledge that every child should get a quality interaction with an employer at least once a year. "However, I believe that there is still much more to do and greater investment is needed to really get this right, we also need to ensure that we rigorously measure the outputs of this work to ensure that it is working effectively."

Ms Donnelly added it was important to ensure that careers provision was properly linked to local labour markets and projected job availability. "Employer engagement with schools and colleges will be key to this. Not only will this help young people understand exactly what options are available and what next steps they should take, it will support schools and colleges deliver meaningful and practical careers advice," she said. 

“The government’s recent industrial strategy made a commitment to putting technical education on the same footing as our academic system. Providing young people with the information to access all training and career paths available to them will be a crucial first step to establishing a world class technical-education offer in the UK,” she said.

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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