Briefing: Department for Education Careers Strategy: Making the most of everyone’s skills and talents

17 January 2018

Amongst the flurry of policy documents and strategies published by the government in late December was this: The DfE’s Careers Strategy, which sets out plans and ambitions to transform careers advice and guidance in England.

The forward to the document is written by Rt Hon Anne Milton MP, Minister of State for Apprenticeships, who is still in post following the January reshuffle’ so it may well be that this document and its ambitions will be taken forward under the leadership of the new Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds MP. 

What does it say?

The first section lays out some of the initiatives and partnerships that already exist:

  • the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) in brokering partnerships with employers and creating benchmarks and tools for schools and partners
  • Local Enterprise Partnerships in jointly funding a network of local Enterprise Advisers (from business), and co-ordinators who can help any school to develop partnerships with local providers. It’s important to note the employers are asked to sign up and register their interest in being a part of this network and it would be great if many more arts and creative businesses were signed up. You can read more about it and sign up here
  • the National Careers Service (primarily for adults)
  • Job Centre Plus, which has been working through schools and in partnership with the Enterprise co-ordinators to deliver advice and guidance
  • the Gatsby Foundation and its development of the 8 benchmarks of Good Career Guidance. These are very strongly endorsed throughout the strategy and will become the quality standard for provision in schools.

Themes and ambitions

The main themes of this document echo and refer to many of the other policies published at the end of 2017. It refers strongly to the need for careers support and pathways for young people to contribute to wider Social Mobility, and it links to the government’s action plan and its Opportunity Areas initiative (see our briefing on both). There is also repeated mention of the buzz-word of the moment, ‘productivity’, with the document claiming that:

Social mobility is positively related to productivity internationally. A modest increase in the UK’s social mobility to the average level across western Europe could be associated with an increase in annual GDP of approximately 2%: equivalent to £590 per person or £39 billion to the UK economy as a whole.’

The strategy references the Industrial Strategy, and specifically the local industrial strategies that are recommended within it, and has a very strong focus on the need for more careers guidance and work experience for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) jobs – especially for girls.

The strategy sets out an ambition for government to set up two clear educational routes for young people: an academic route consisting of A-levels and higher education; and a technical route consisting of T-levels and apprenticeships – sometimes a mix of the two.

Key new initiatives?

There is a full table in the strategy that sets out pledges and actions, but here are some of the headlines:

  • Ofsted to comment on careers guidance in colleges
  • The CEC will launch a new investment fund of £5m to support the most disadvantaged pupils by September 2018
  • A named Careers Leader should lead the careers programme in every school and college by September 2018
  • 20 Careers Hubs will be funded by Government and supported by a coordinator from the CEC
  • For careers advice to begin at Primary school: government will test what careers activities are appropriate and work well in primary schools, providing £2m to test new programmes, or expand ones that work, including in challenging areas. They will also work with the CEC and interested Opportunity Areas to explore new approaches to employer engagement and early careers activities in primary schools, and aim to share the results widely so other schools can benefit and build their expertise.

By the end of 2020 the strategy aims to ensure:

  • All schools and colleges will have access to an Enterprise Adviser
  • Schools should offer every young person seven encounters with employers – at least one each year from years 7 to 13 – with support from the CEC. Some of these encounters should be with STEM employers
  • A new, improved National Careers Service website will include all of the information to help citizens make informed choices.

Anything to flag that is particular to cultural learning?

Apart from the call to action for business to register and engage with schools in order to provide meaningful work experience, the report itself is very general.

There is a nod made to the importance of the Creative Industries to the economy, and a paragraph acknowledging the diverse nature of our workforce and the need for work experience to reflect different models:

They could include encounters with people who are self-employed and working for themselves, reflecting the growing number of freelancers in the workforce. The UK’s fast-growing creative industries, for instance, offer careers in a wide range of roles, and opportunities to move between projects. With more people than ever running their own business, entrepreneurship education is an important component of high-quality careers provision.‘

However, the report doesn’t address any of the resource issues for micro-businesses and freelancers finding the time to invest in providing this kind of career advice and guidance alongside core work.

We also find it worrying that the recommendation for schools follows this trend: requiring all schools to name an existing member of staff as a ‘Career Leader’ without providing any extra resource to make this happen. There is some small provision made for training these individuals with the government due to provide £4m to fund the development of new training programmes, and support at least 500 schools and colleges in areas of the country needing most support to train their own Careers Leaders and build momentum behind this enhanced role.

There may also be some small opportunities for creative and cultural training providers:

We will ask organisations to submit proposals for training programmes. We expect this training to include knowledge about the new T levels and apprenticeships. Training will be piloted and evaluated before considering whether to make it available more widely. We will pilot the first training in 2018/19 academic year.’

So it is worth keeping an eye on this funding to see how it rolls out and whether arts, cultural and creative organisations can play a role in delivery. It’s also worth noting that:

We are establishing Skills Advisory Panels, in partnership with Mayoral Combined Authorities and LEPs, to produce rigorous analysis of current and future local skills needs. We will encourage schools, colleges and others to use this information to help shape their careers provision and will encourage Careers Leaders to interpret the data for their students. The CEC will use their networks to share this analysis and to inform the activities they support locally.’


What’s missing?

There is a strange lack of reference to any sector specific organisations – particularly given the bespoke needs of each sector in this area.  For instance, we would have liked to have seen more of a reference to the work of Creative and Cultural Skills and Creative Skillset, and are particularly surprised not to see references to CCSkills’ Creative Choices: the website dedicated to providing information on accessing a creative career.

What have people said about it?

As expected, the Careers and Enterprise Company warmly welcomed the document, whilst the TES echoes our concerns about lack of funding and this article in FE Weeks views the strategy as a worrying move away from paid, trained advice towards volunteer providers.


Image credit: Maker Faire 2016 3. Credit - Derby Museums Trust