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Taking action: Achieving a culture change in careers provision (September, 2014)

Taking action: Achieving a culture change in careers provision is the second report of the National Careers Council.


The National Careers Council (NCC) provides advice to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on a strategic vision for the National Careers Service (NCS) in England. In its first report, An Aspirational Nation: Creating a culture change in careers provision (June 2013), the NCC highlighted the need for a culture change to address the mismatch between high unemployment and employers who are struggling to recruit.

In this report, the NCC concentrates on the important role that the NCS has to play in supporting young peoples’ access to quality-assured careers products and services as well as adults. The Council argues that progress since last year has been too slow and that stimulating the marketplace is not enough. It highlights numerous reports that have criticised the government’s stance towards careers guidance for young people and points to the evidence of the benefits of effective careers guidance. It urges the government to provide stronger leadership and funding to build relevant national and local infrastructures to help more individuals to achieve good employment. The Council also emphasises for the first time the role of career development professionals working alongside employers and schools. The Council makes four recommendations this year which it believes should be simple and straightforward to carry out. The government has already indicated that work is underway to implement the Council’s first recommendation about setting up an employer-led advisory board for the NCS; and inter-departmental discussions are taking place on careers policy and practice.

Action to achieve a genuinely all-age careers guidance system

The Council expresses its concern that despite government’s acceptance of its seven recommendations in last year’s report, progress in implementing them has been disappointing. It says that young people, their parents and teachers are confused and let down by a “multiplicity of disjointed careers provision” (p.4). The Council is also worried that this means that schools and colleges do not know how to make good decisions about quality of provision and value for money:

“it is clear many schools and colleges need support to rise to the challenge of meeting their new statutory duties to provide impartial and independent careers guidance. It is vital that they are able to understand the careers marketplace and the level of services on offer from 1,000+ careers providers. They range from sole traders to organisations employing thousands of staff – not all of which are necessarily of sufficient quality or offer value for money to funding-constrained public bodies. There is an urgent need to help schools and colleges to become ‘informed consumers and buyers’ of careers provision.” (p.5)

To achieve this, the Council repeats a key recommendation from last year’s report that the government should establish an employer-led advisory board reporting directly to relevant ministers in BIS, DfE, MoJ and DWP. The board would comprise senior representatives from employers, education and the career development profession. Its role would be to “drive forward high quality careers provision across all parts of England”, guide the work of the National Careers Service and ensure value for money.

The Council points out that the National Careers Service appears to be working well for adults but warns against losing this focus while it tries to improve provision for young people. The Council cites the ‘Fuller Working Lives framework for action’ in arguing that changing demographics underline the importance of not diluting the current level of careers provision for adults if we are to prevent early labour market exit and later life poverty for older people.

To create a genuine all-age strategy, the Council calls more strongly than before on the government to develop the role of CDI-registered career development professionals and other networks. It suggests, for example, that career development professionals have a role in improving the working of the careers inspiration strategy and could have a role in helping young people, parents and teachers access the high quality, digitally-delivered national labour market information that the Council wants the NCS to be responsible for.

Greater investment in a joined-up, innovative and responsive careers guidance system

The Council makes three further recommendations about how to build a comprehensive and sustainable careers guidance system which have funding implications for government:

  • The Government should provide schools and colleges with free and/or subsidised access to independent and impartial career development professionals’ expertise.

Three options are offered:

Option 1: £131m, to provide all schools with access to a full-time qualified careers professional.
Option 2: £43.7m, to provide all schools with access to a careers professional working across two or three local institutions.
Option 3: £17.5m, to provide all schools with access to up to 30 days per annum, ‘in the early transition phase of meeting their new statutory responsibilities’ (p.28).

  • The National Careers Service should, as a matter of high priority, improve its website to make it attractive and appealing to young people, parents and teachers.
  • The Government should support the scaling up of existing and successful initiatives and the piloting of innovative local models by establishing a careers investment fund administered by the DfE which would ensure a good service nation-wide, though delivered in different and locally-relevant ways, by a range of organisations.

The report suggests that a fund of £20m-£25m would be required to trial different approaches and promote innovation.

It will be interesting to see how the government responds to these recommendations. A first step would be to clarify how they could be implemented and what the implications would be for the roles of the different players involved, especially the NCS itself. It is significant that the DfE now makes no financial contribution towards the NCS and may need to be persuaded to change its view. The bigger question is whether anything much will change this side of the general election due next year and, therefore, whether progress is again going to be disappointingly slow.

Relevant links

Read the full report here

The Council has compiled a Heat Map to ascertain the scale and range of careers provision across England 

The Council and the National Governors Association have produced a briefing note for school governors and trustees on ‘need to know issues’ in careers education and guidance 

The Council has produced a video of a range of people in London talking about what ‘career’ means to them and the type of support they require 

Tony Watts has written a critique of the National Careers Council Final Report for Careers England


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  • Anthony

    In table one, NCC lists eighteen reports critical of the government’s inadequate policy on careers. Their second annual report must be the nineteenth. Here’s the twentieth! The Association of Colleges (AoC), National Union of Students and children’s charity Barnardo’s have written to the Education Secretary about the need ofr an improved careers guidance system. They suggest setting up careers hubs.

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  • John Hogan

    Why not set up an organisation that employs career guidance professionals, who could go into schools and provide independent and impartial careers advice. The Government should fund this as the report suggests Option 1: £131m, to provide all schools with access to a full-time qualified careers professional. Oh didn’t Connexions do that?

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