Secret report warns of personal adviser shortage. Andrew Mourant and Ian Nash report
MINISTERS have been warned by senior advisers to postpone the introduction of new careers and youth support services because of a crisis in the recruitment of personal advisers needed to manage them.
The warnings are contained in an unpublished government report leaked to FE Focus. It shows that at least 13,000 extra advisers will be needed over the next four years to support initiatives such as the advice and welfare Connexions service.
In a recommendation that will alarm leaders of youth and community services, the report suggests a watering-down of the training requirements for advisers and mentors in order to speed up recruitment.
But the report also shows any speed-up in recruitment would clash with other government priorities. These include plans to take on 20,000 more teaching assistants plus more social workers and New Deal staff.
"To avoid undue impact on existing occupations, ways should be found to increase the pool - including encouraging the economically inactive to rejoin the labour force," the study says.
With London and the South-east already short of teachers and social workers, the report suggests a phasing in of the Connexions services over four years to 2005. It calls also for housing subsidies and other inducements.
A detailed study of the labour market - by the former Department for Education and Employment Connexions Unit and other departments - is highly sceptical of plans to introduce the services by April 2002.
The government advisers call for a bold rcruitment programme and advertising campaign. Among the pool of potential recruits suggested are ex-servicemen, retired police officers, former financial advisers, the unemployed, the retired and people who may have experienced social deprivation.
But finding the right balance will be difficult, they admit. Efforts by the Youth Justice Board to create teams from education, social work and the police to tackle juvenile crime have hit recruitment problems and skills shortages.
The report is positive, however, about the role of the new army of advisers in the longer term. They say it could become "a new profession" embracing youth workers, youth-offending team staff, careers advisers, educational welfare services and learning mentors.
They suggest a new licensing scheme with a national council to promote good practice, education and training. Further education colleges could provide personal adviser courses and recruit ethnic minorities through outreach programmes.
The departmental report says that if recruitment is restricted to those with professional qualifications, good candidates able to work well with difficult young people will be put off.
Doug Nicholls, general secretary of the Community and Youth Workers Union, is sceptical about many of the proposals and "deeply disturbed" by proposals to reduce qualification and training requirements. "No profession has ever been created overnight," he said.
"There are elements of the personal adviser job that are completely new, very difficult, and would require considered preparation. More training is needed, not less."