Careers Guidance and the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper

While we still await the publication of the Government’s Careers Strategy, The Industrial Strategy Green Paper, which came out earlier this year, includes some indicators as to the Government’s take on careers information advice and guidance (CIAG). In the chapter on developing skills, it describes current CIAG support as patchy and inconsistent; the green paper identifies it as one of the six key challenges that needs to be addressed in the context of reducing skills shortages and improving productivity levels and social mobility. The green paper states that an improved education and skills system must be supported by high quality careers provision, especially for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. In terms of the Government’s proposed approach to improving careers information and advice, it’s a bit light on detail, and focuses on the importance of involving employers, referring to the work of the Careers and Enterprise Company in connecting employers with schools and colleges.  I’ve picked up a growing concern in careers circles that some Government Ministers seem to think that the solution lies solely with engaging employers more fully. While the input of employers is an essential component of a good CIAG offer, a key element is access to face-to-face guidance from a trained careers professional, which is one of the key Gatsby benchmarks for effective careers guidance.

Encouragingly, the green paper talks about the need to improve CIAG for adults during their working life, to support lifelong learning and to help people retrain during their careers. The paper mentions testing new approaches to encourage lifelong learning which could include direct outreach with adults, including the interestingly described contact moments. It also reconfirms the Government’s plans to review the current careers offer to people of all ages, built on best international evidence, through publishing a comprehensive careers strategy later this year for CIAG. With the looming election, this is likely to be even later than originally anticipated. It was way back in December 2015 that the Government first announced its intention to publish a new strategy.

Other points of interest to note include the focus on improving Labour Market Information (LMI), particularly in the identification of skills shortages. The paper argues that a lack of a single authoritative source of LMI has led to issues in forecasting skills shortages. I’m not sure how recently ending the funding of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) tallies with this argument, but on a positive note it states that we will now work towards a single, authoritative view of the gaps faced by the UK now and in the future.

The paper also outlines plans to introduce a new transition year at 16 for students with basic skills gaps and who are not ready for more advanced study or employment, and outlines a proposal to create a course finding process for technical education similar to the UCAS process. It highlights the complexity people face when choosing courses or apprenticeships in colleges: We will therefore explore how to give technical education students clear information and better support throughout the application process, with a similar platform to UCAS, which will also make it easier for students to compare options in technical education and higher education. While any improvement in terms of the accessibility of information for students interested in options other than full time HE are to be applauded, I am a little confused as to what they are proposing here. I also think there is a lot of work to be done to define, as well as raise awareness, of technical education and technician careers.

And finally a large focus of the paper as a whole is on addressing STEM shortages and the need to increase the number of students studying A Level maths, as well as STEM subjects at higher levels. While the need to address STEM shortages is clear, I would add that, particularly in the London context, we should be talking in terms of STEAM (A for artistic) but that’s a topic for another article.

Further Information

Building Our Industrial Strategy Green Paper January 2017

Gatsby Benchmarks for Good Careers Guidance