Memorandum submitted by Connect South West Limited

 

 

This response has been submitted by Connect South West Limited the new company name for Connexions Somerset Ltd. The response is arranged under the five headings published in the National Connexions Network E-News 11th November 2009 Keep Britain Working-Youth Unemployment.

 

Connect South West Limited have been commissioned by Somerset County Council since September 2008 to deliver the Careers Education Inforamtion Advice and Guidance delivery of the Connexions Service . Other elements of the Connexions Service have been taken in house and are being delivered by Local Service Delivery Teams

 

Connect South West have a proven track record in reducing the numbers of young people not in employment, education and training, both meeting and exceeding the LAA stretch target of 4% by 3.8% which resulted in a reward of 1.2 million to Somerset County Council. We have a cohesive strategy to reduce the numbers of young people not in education, employment or training in the county with a key focus to reduce the numbers in the 16-18 year age range key components of the strategy address early identification and intervention, differentiated approaches, supply of learning provision, client tracking, financial incentives and management.

 

Strategies for the identification of Young People at Risk of Falling into the 'NEET' Category

 

Supporting local school and behaviour strategies and cohort need analysis

Diagnostic Interviewing for all year 9 which identifies need, support requirements and low or unrealistic aspirations.

Relationship management in schools to further identify young people who are not fully participating those underachieving with poor predicted grades, those with health issues, young people in care, young people under the supervision of YOT.

As a universal CEIAG Service we have clear entitlements for all young people, parents and carers, implemented through a differentiated, diagnostic and proactive approach to all vulnerable groups. All identified individuals and groups are offered personalised guidance and support and referrals to other professional agencies where appropriate.

Robust tracking system and jeopardy reports through the CCIS database on:

Y/P with an individual circumstances

Y/P who's status is expired.

Young parents.

Young people with LDD/ALN

Strong links with the Provider Network and the National Apprenticeship Service identifying young people at risk of disengaging from post 16 learning and those who are early leavers. Offering personalised guidance and support to maintain learning or timely referral to more suitable provision to further support post 16 retention.

 

Services and Programmes to Support Those Most at Risk of Becoming 'NEET' and to Reduce the Numbers and Address the Needs of Those Who Have Become 'NEET'

 

Transition arrangements for year 11 pupils without a guarantee offer and those with unrealistic offers, including the use of the Summer Activity Programme, European Social Funded Engagement and Employability Programmes, bespoke summer entry to employment project, ongoing tracking and support. The achievement of the September guarantee in Somerset 2009 was 98.3% for 16year olds and 98.7% for 17year olds exceeding the government target.

Effective arrangements with other agencies including the 3rd sector, Somerset Youth Offending Team and Leaving Care Team, representation on the teenage pregnancy strategy board.

Management and partnership delivery of initial engagement programmes for NEET young people.

Collaborative approaches and clear referral systems to the Connexions Services delivered through the local authority.

Proactive work with all Further Education colleges to provide CEIAG to young people at risk of disengaging, those who make late applications and those on level1 course or those courses with high incidence of dropout.

Ongoing development of information sharing arrangements including termly meetings to ensure high quality.

 

The Effectiveness of the Governments NEET Strategy

 

Much of the Somerset NEET Strategy mirrors the National Strategy. The main issues encountered when working with the client group are;

 

Lack of mainstream sustainable funding for innovative, individualised programmes for those in the most vulnerable groups, particularly programmes delivered in the community where young people can positively engage. Many young people have had a negative experience in schools and colleges and are reluctant to return post 16 education.

Rural isolation, lack of affordable public transport and a small transient cohort accross a large rural county. Organisations contracted to deliver programmes experience difficulties in making delivery cost effective and accessible.

For some young people, particularly those with health issues, volunteering on a part-time basis is a realistic option to maintain engagement. This status is not recognised as in learning and adds to the NEET %.

The majority of young people in Somerset in the 16-18 year NEET group are aged 17. They will often be early leavers from F.E. courses and face a long period of time NEET before returning to a more suitable course the following academic year. There has been some flexibility introduced in colleges although this does need further development across a range of provision.

The reforms to the qualification framework, introduction of diplomas, commitment to apprenticeships and developments in Foundation Learning will provide more choice and access for young people to progress, however in Somerset accessibility and affordable transport for low income families remains a significant barrier.

In Somerset, we developed a NEETS planner - identifying month by month the importance of tracking, keeping current situation unknowns and creating jeopardy lists so that MIS requirements become the responsibility of all delivery staff

Working with employers is integral to the developments within Connexions Somerset Ltd.

Labour Market Information which is both current local and relevant further supports the professional careers education, information advice and guidance offered by Connexions Somerset Ltd.

The National IAG Standards, published in October 2008, will improve the services delivered by education and apprenticeship providers, non careers staff in schools parents and carers who are all primary influencers in young people's choices.

The introduction of the September Guarantee has had a positive impact on the % of 17 year old NEETs however there has been increase in those young people aged 18+. Somerset figures for October 2009 stood at:

16 years- 2.8%

17 years- 4.6%

18 years- 5.8%

 

 

The Likely Impact on Raising the Participation Age on Strategies for Addressing the Needs of Young People not in Education, Employment or Training

 

Positive;

 

The raising of the participation age working alongside changes in Qualification and Credit Framework, Diplomas and Foundation Learning will provide a clear route for young people to positively engage and progress through a curriculum which is more flexible and addresses different learning styles and needs. Local curriculum offers will need to map against local labour market information and local and national skills need and shortfall.

 

Concerns;

 

Our concerns on the impact of raising the participation age is the potential of moving a 16-18 NEET cohort to 19+, when we are already experiencing a percentage rise with this group. The introduction of the Adult Advancement Careers Service, Flexible New Deal and other new employment and skills initiatives may reduce this concern.

Young people families and employers could be criminalised as a result of legislation. Our concern is how these employers will be given the information, how they will interperate it and how realistic is the implementation.

Again access to suitable learning in a rural county remains an issue.

 

 

The Opportunities and Future Prospects in Education, Training and Employment for 16-18 Year Olds

 

The launch of the National Apprenticeship Service in 2009 has initially raised the profile of apprenticeship with key influences and employers. Unfortunately the current economic climate has resulted in a reduced uptake of employer engagement than anticipated in particular with small business. The County Council recent recruitment freeze is also impacting on the availability of apprenticeship vacancies as the counties largest employer.

Somerset's economy continues to be dominated by the small business sector with around 86% of businesses in the county employing no more than ten staff GB 84.5%). Just over 100 firms - a mere 0.5% of the business population - employ over two hundred people (GB 0.7%). However, it should be noted that this relevant small number of large firms employ almost a quarter of the overall Somerset workforce.

Somerset has five further education colleges providing a range of opportunities. There is still very few flexible start opportunities therefore if a young person needs to change course or is an early leaver they are required to wait up to an academic year before reengaging. There needs to be more funding and flexibility to ensure education and training is available with either rolling start dates or a minimum of three dates throughout the academic year.

 

 

December 2009