Careers education in schools is finally in the policy spotlight. At a time when 516,000 young people aged 16-24 are unemployed and children’s career aspirations continue to be based on gender stereotypes and socio-economic backgrounds, the government is focussing its attention on improving the quality and availability of careers and enterprise education for all children and young people.
Launched in December 2017, the government’s Careers strategy: making the most of everyone’s skills and talents emphasises the need for a “thriving careers system” to encourage social mobility. The role of careers guidance is vital in ensuring equality of opportunity, and as such excellence is to be facilitated by benchmarks developed by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. The Careers and Enterprise Company will coordinate the efforts of schools and colleges in meeting these eight benchmarks, which include learning from labour market information and addressing the needs of each pupil. While these ideas aren’t exactly ground-breaking, their formalisation is an important turning point.
Since January 2018, all schools and colleges have been required to adhere to these benchmarks under the Baker Clause amendment to the Technical and Further Education Act. Such a quick turnaround has proven extremely difficult however, with many schools falling short of fulfilling their statutory requirement, and only 20% of the largest MATs in England complying with their legal duty to provide quality careers advice.
It could be argued that the timing of the introduction for this new requirement was ill-considered. For many it coincided with the first day back after the Christmas holidays, just one day after New Year’s Day. But by now all schools should be working to facilitate partnerships with local providers of post-16 education, and should have published their provider access statement as part of their careers policy.
Colleges are still receiving their Christmas presents from the DfE though. In February 2018, FE and sixth form colleges received yet further updated Careers Guidance detailing their obligations to post-14 and post-16 learners.
This new focus on improving careers guidance has huge potential to impact upon the futures of Generation Z and that of the economy. Changing perceptions around apprenticeship schemes both at KS4 and KS5, and higher and degree apprenticeships, could lead to a dynamic increase in the number of skilled workers who could yet still future proof a myriad of vulnerable UK industries.
Furthermore, with Education and Employers outlining at Davos earlier this year how “children’s aspirations appear to be shaped by gender-specific ideas about certain jobs” from the tender age of 7, it is clear that schools must play an early role in championing every child’s ability to fulfil their career potential, whatever it may be.
Going forward, schools and colleges need to facilitate more partnerships with local businesses and apprenticeship providers, both to offer beneficial work experience opportunities for pupils, as well as to inspire their career goals, both in the long term and short term.
This article was written by Lauren Powell, Portfolio Lead, IG Schools.
Read more insights on the education sector via the IG Schools Blog.