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Careers Guidance for Young People

Written evidence submitted by CBI

1. The CBI is the UK’s leading business organisation, speaking for some 240,000 businesses that together employ around a third of the private sector workforce. With offices across the UK as well as representation in Brussels, Washington, Beijing and Delhi the CBI communicates the British business voice around the world.

2. The CBI welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Education Select Committee’s Inquiry into careers guidance for young people. The challenge we face as a nation is huge – 2.56 million people are currently unemployed and the number of young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs) is circling around the 1 million mark. It is clear that the school to work transition does not adequately prepare our young people for the world of work. A high quality, impartial careers advice and guidance system is a vital part of tackling this problem.

3. We should be clear that there has never been a "golden age" for information, advice and guidance in the UK. Over the years, various systems have been tried, with some proving more effective than others, but a comprehensive and effective framework of support for our young people has been difficult to achieve.

4. A wholesale improvement in the quality of careers advice and guidance will not be felt on the ground without business involvement. Frequent external input from businesses, brought together in local networks, can help ensure that advice is strongly grounded in the realities of the labour market. Business also has a role in inspiring young people about working life and all the options that are open to them. Business recognises this responsibility and is ready to do more – we now need mechanisms for harnessing this involvement.

5. In order for schools to fulfil their new duty to full potential, it must sit within a framework for improving the school to work transition as a whole. This means retaining work experience for 14-16 year olds and rewarding schools who give young people the opportunity to pick up the an understanding of the workplace. All of this will require schools to strengthen their links with businesses. We need fresh policies to encourage the growth and consolidation of existing local-level relationships between businesses, schools and the local economic infrastructure, including public authorities.

6. In this submission, we argue that:

· careers advice and guidance has not been delivering results for young people

· attempts to improve the system will fail without strong employer involvement

· careers advice and guidance must sit within a framework for improving the school to work transition as a whole

· in these tough economic times, resources must be focused on those in greatest need of support and guidance for the biggest impact

Careers advice and guidance has not been delivering results for young people

7. High quality careers advice is essential for supporting young people to make a successful school to work transition. Young people are making choices from the age of 13 that will have an impact on their future careers and it is essential that these choices are well informed. With the right careers advice, delivered at the right time, more young people will have an understanding of the world of work, the full range of routes open to them and how to access them.

8. Careers advice and guidance has not being delivering results and this is a long standing issue, not just for the current system. Responding to the CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey 2012 [1] , improved careers advice and guidance was employers’ top priority for 14-19 education. For example, only 4% of responding employers told us that careers advice is currently good enough. The majority of employers (72%) told us that careers advice and guidance must improve. CBI data [2] has identified several key weaknesses with careers advice and guidance as it has been delivered under recent systems. They include advice that that is:

· irrelevant and/or not timely

· fails to inspire general careers awareness

· inaccurate or not grounded in the labour market

· an absence of advice about vocational options

Poor quality advice will have a negative impact on young peoples’ ability to make the transition between learning and work. The consequences of poor careers information advice and guidance also carry a significant direct cost on the publicly-funded skills system, as a result of wasted provision.

9. Employers can help tackle these problems by working with schools to meet their self-identified needs. For example, ensuring that careers advisers have information this is grounded in the labour market means that advice is always up to date and relevant to young people. Many employers (51% of those with links to schools provide careers advice / talks [3] ) also work with schools, either directly or through national schemes, to inspire young people about career paths or choices – for a successful example, see exhibit 1.

Attempts to improve the system will fail without strong employer involvement

10. The previous system of advice and guidance was not delivering results, and it is right that the government has sought to reform the system. The CBI has welcomed the principle of a National Careers Service (NCS). Hosted online, and making strong use of social media and an online presence, the service has the opportunity to provide an effective and clear portal for careers information. However, in order to contribute to the much needed step change in quality, it must make the most of its online presence to draw in the best resources from across business and forge a programme of continual business engagement. Employers are supportive of the new service and willing to get involved, but currently lack a clear framework for their involvement. We hope that the National Careers Council – which the CBI is engaged with – will help provide leadership for this engagement.

11. To be truly effective, however, the National Careers Service has to be part of a wider framework that is locally led and utilises local brokerage solutions to harness business involvement and respond to local labour market needs.

12. In this regard, CBI members are concerned about how well prepared schools are to fulfil their new duty. Without funding to provide their new role, or a widespread local network, there is real concern about how schools will be able to build adequate provision. It is all the more important that schools provide this form of guidance effectively given that it is not available to those under-19 via the NCS. Although statutory guidance on schools does make it clear that schools should secure face-to-face careers guidance where it is the most suitable support, there are still concerns that many young people will miss out on face-to-face guidance during the key transition points in their education.

13. The duty to provide impartial and independent advice must mean that young people receive advice and guidance about all the options that are open to them. This should include vocational routes. Apprenticeships and other vocational routes have long been undersold as an option for young people. For example, focus-group research of apprentices conducted for the LSC [4] found that, "participants frequently stated that schools focused on more traditional routes of learning and career development, such as A-levels and university", adding that "there was a perception that only those with the lowest grades were given the option to undertake an apprenticeship". This both devalues good vocational provision, and leads to an environment where lower levels of rigour in vocational courses might be seen as acceptable. The perception that A-levels and university are the only routes to a successful career must be challenged. Through their involvement in the delivery of careers advice and guidance, business can help counter any negative perceptions and make sure that careers advisors are aware and up to date on major employers of graduates, technicians and skilled workers and the range of entry routes open to all young people.

Careers advice and guidance must sit within a framework for improving the school-work transition as a whole

14. Recognising the important role they have to play, many employers already play a role in the delivery of careers advice and guidance, working with schools to help meet their self-identified needs. According to the CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey 2012, over half (51%) of those with links to schools contribute in this way. Around 40% of involvement is via individual links with businesses and schools, and around 15% engage via national programmes such as STEM ambassadors or Prospects.

15. The scale of the challenge in reaching our young people is significant, and it is clear that careers advice and guidance sits within a wider school to work transition process that is less than effective. The CBI continues to oppose the Department for Education’s decision to remove the statutory duty on schools to provide work related learning. The impact of the proposed changes could result in a significant decline in work experience provision for 14-16 year olds. This is a major concern given that work experience is a primary opportunity for young people to make the links between what is learnt and school and the competencies needed for work. There are currently two million children in Britain growing-up in workless households who are at risk into spiralling into unemployment because they lack an understanding of what it means to ‘go to work’ and the skills that are required. Bridging this knowledge gap can help break the cycle of generational worklessness.

16. In order to best assist young people to make the transition from school to work, schools should be rewarded for supporting young people to pick up the competencies needed to succeed in the workplace. In England, school funding is based on a formula based primarily on academic achievement and as a result, schools largely focus their attention on preparing bright children for academic study. However, this model does not work for youngsters who need the competencies to succeed in the workforce, rather than continued academic study. In Action for Jobs, the CBI recommended an "employability school status" that recognises schools that engage with proven schemes or activities, that provide good quality work experience and careers advice.

17. All of this requires strengthening relationships to business. Employers are willing to take this step, for example over half of respondents to our survey who are already involved in delivering careers advice in schools (60%) are willing to play a greater role. However, there are various barriers in place to maximising this potential, including a lack of awareness from schools on the importance of links with business or on both sides how deep partnerships can go. For smaller employers in particular, an absence of a clear framework for involvement is a major barrier. Not least of all, there is currently no clear mechanism for coordinating links between businesses and schools, although some schemes like BITCs Business Class programme are clearly effective and should be supported in their growth (See exhibit 2) [5] .

18. As the best schemes demonstrate, tackling these problems requires locally-led solutions. The CBI Action for Jobs report recommended that, government and business should work together to identify, in each local area, someone from the business community who will take responsibility for organising and encouraging business-school links, for example for work experience or careers advice and guidance. This must be locally-led, but could be delivered through a programme like Business Class. The CBI is now working with the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and other partners to explore pilots for local ownership of the development of these business-school links designed to encourage local actors to reach out to the existing schemes that are available .

19. Another key way of harnessing business involvement to improve careers advice and guidance is to improve the position of teachers to offer advice. This is so important because teachers are often the first port of call for many young people seeking advice on course or subject choices. However, they may often have limited experience of the jobs market beyond the teaching profession, which necessarily places restrictions on the insight they are able to offer. In Action for Jobs, the CBI recommended that, setting up a network of business exchange schemes, as part of teachers’ on-going professional development, could go a long way to improving teachers’ understanding and knowledge of the world of work. We envision that the proposed network of business-school champions would support the local organisation of these exchange schemes.

In these tough economic times, resources must be focused on those in greatest need of support and guidance for the biggest impact

20. With around one million young people without work, education or training, they must be a priority for government. It is essential that all young people receive advice at key transition points in their education – at age 14, 16 and 18, to help them make the successful transition from school to work. The new duty on schools to provide advice and guidance should help to facilitate this and improve the timing of advice. High quality advice will not only support young people making university choices at age 18, or those deciding whether to pursue academic or vocational routes at age 16, but will also help challenge perceptions that can be built at an early age about the interest and value of maths and science subjects.

21. Of course, not all young people are still in school – almost one million 16-24 year olds are not in any form of education, employment or training (NEETs), with a high cost to the individual and wider society. NEETs must be high priority for receiving careers advice and guidance in order to help them make the successful transition to work and / or training. Potentially disengaged, these young people will need tailored support to help them back into work and training and face to face contact will be an important component of this. While NEETs remain the duty of the local authority, it is of some concern that some young people aged 17 or 18 and who have left compulsory education will fall through the gap if only those aged 19+ are offered face to face support through the National Careers Service (NCS).

October 2012

[1] CBI/ Pearson, Learning to Grow: Education and Skill Survey 2012, June 2012

[2] E.g. CBI, Action for Jobs – How to get the UK working, November 2011

[3] CBI/ Pearson, Learning to Grow: Education and Skill Survey 2012, June 2012


[4] LSC, Addressing Inequality in Apprenticeships: Learners’ Views, 2009

[5] CBI, Action for Jobs – how to get the UK working , November 2011

Prepared 30th October 2012