Careers Guidance: The Latest Government Guidance for Further Education colleges and sixth form colleges

It’s been a busy few months in terms of government careers strategies and guidance. Back in December the long awaited Careers Strategy came out, which outlined the government’s plan for raising the quality of careers provision in England, followed in January by further guidance aimed specifically at the schools sector. Last month it was the turn of colleges with the release of the government’s Careers Guidance: Guidance for further education colleges and Sixth Form Colleges document. In December’s article I summarised the key points from the Careers Strategy and I will now try to capture the headlines from this latest guidance aimed at colleges, which runs to 24 pages.

To start, in terms of who it is aimed at, the guidance document is for all sixth form and further education colleges in England, to inform the careers offer for learners in colleges up to and including the age of 18, as well as 19 to 25 year olds with a current Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan.  The guidance reinforces messages from the earlier Careers Strategy, including the important role effective careers guidance has in contributing to social mobility and helping to meet the aims of the Industrial Strategy. As outlined in the Careers Strategy, the guidance is based on the 8 Gatsby benchmarks and sets out a number of expectations and requirements, which include:

  • A Careers Leader should be appointed to lead the careers programme, which should also be published on the college’s website
  • At least two meaningful encounters with an employer every year
  • A meaningful encounter with a range of providers of learning and training that may form the next stage of their career
  • Collecting and maintaining accurate data for each learner on their education, training or employment destinations

Arguably, so far so good. The next two however, will have significant resource implications for colleges.

By the end of their programme of study every learner should have had:

  • At least one experience of a workplace, additional to any part-time jobs they may have
  • At least one guidance interview with a careers adviser by the end of their study programme

Focusing in on the last recommendation, a number of our FE college partners have several thousand 16-18 students studying a wide range of courses. Even with colleges who have several qualified careers advisers this is an enormous task. If we make the assumption that a guidance interview would last approximately 30 minutes it doesn’t need a mathematician to work out that this isn’t realistic unless further government funding is made available.

Another challenging, and in the context of FE colleges and their cohorts, unrealistic recommendation, is that records of advice given should be integrated with those given at the previous stage of the learner’s education (including their secondary school) where these are made available.

While most of the guidance revolves around recommendations that colleges “should” undertake a variety of actions, it’s worth emphasising that there are clear warnings in the document that colleges are expected to comply with this guidance and that this forms part of the conditions of grant funding. The guidance states that: “In the event of non-compliance it is open to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to take action in accordance with the provisions of its Grant agreement.”

Linking London will be working closely with college partners to keep them informed of further developments and provide opportunities to share concerns and good practice. As a starting point, the careers guidance for further education colleges document will be discussed in more detail at our Linking London IAG practitioner Group meeting on the 9th March.