A government-commissioned research report on the National Careers Service has failed to identify that it has any positive impact on getting its users into employment.
The report on the NCS, which has received £380 million in government funding since it was launched in 2012, “could not identify a positive impact of the NCS on employment or benefit-dependency outcomes”. The research was commissioned by the Department for Education and written by consultants London Economics.
After comparing the progress of NCS customers with a comparable group of people who did not use it, the researchers found that those supported by the service spent less time in employment in the months that followed.
Post-support prospects dip in first few months
According to the NCS, young people aged 13 and older are given access to up-to-date, impartial information and professional guidance on careers, skills and the labour market through an online service and telephone helpline, while adults aged 19 and older can access one-to-one support from a “qualified adviser, face-to-face in the community”.
The evaluation of the contribution of the NCS, however, finds that the employment outcomes of its customers actually worsen in the first months post-support. In the sixth month after receiving NCS support, customers spent 3.5 per cent less time in employment than peers who did not access the service.
The gap later narrows, but even in the 24th month after intervention, those who receive support spent an average of 2 per cent less time in employment.
The researchers noted caveats to these figures and stressed that they identified a “relatively strong effect in relation to education and training that persisted across the entire post-support period”.
Body has 'lost its way'
Shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden said the evaluation suggests that “in the five years [that the NCS] has been in existence, it has slightly lost its way”.
“I would hope that given the importance of careers advice in terms of getting young people proper opportunities for apprenticeships, and older people proper opportunities for reskilling, its structure now needs to be re-examined urgently,” he added.
Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, said: “The NCS has wider objectives, in addition to helping people find work more quickly. Its staff work hard each day to help people.
“Nonetheless, the fact that the research cannot identify a positive impact of the service on employment or benefit receipt is worrying and gives pause for thought. Ultimately, we need to be clear what the NCS is for.”
According to a spokeswoman for the Department for Education, the research in the report on the NCS was carried out in 2014. Since then, a number of changes to the organisation have been made, she added, including a move to an outcome-funded model focused on progression into jobs and learning, customer satisfaction and career management.
This is an edited version of an article in the 21 April edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. Your new-look TES magazine is available at all good newsagents.