See my article in FE Week regarding the Further Education and Skills sector on Devolution.
My views on putting the world to rights.
See my article in FE Week regarding the Further Education and Skills sector on Devolution.
So it’s National Apprenticeship Week and it’s great that nationally
we are promoting this wonderful initiative.
There is no doubt in my mind that Apprenticeships for young people offer
a fantastic way to earn and learn as well as an opportunity to develop new
skills. However there has been a long
debate in the UK about parity of esteem with the academic route taken by 50% of
If we truly want to achieve parity of esteem we need
Government Departments including the sponsor of National Apprenticeship Week, the
Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) to employ more Apprentices. I was at a conference today and was dismayed
to learn that BIS employ only 14 apprentices.
If we truly want a world class education system where apprenticeships sit alongside the academic route, Government Departments as well as employers need to do more in this area. Ministers often quote the German vocational system as the model of good practice. Sadly the UK is nowhere near in terms of its competitiveness or arrangements for making the Apprenticeship route a real option for the 50% of young people that do not wish to pursue a traditional academic route.
Today Michael Gove stood at the despatch box and apologised claiming he had listened. If you are a member of the Teaching Profession I would imagine that this will be welcomed. Apologising is actually a sign of strength in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I am not at all a fan of Mr Gove and do not share his political ideology. Putting your hands up and acknowledging where you have gone wrong is great, only if you mean it.
It seems to be a pattern of this Government to rush through policies without thinking of consequences or the impact on people. On important issues such as the economy (where of course the deficit has to be reduced) to educational reform to wind farms, this Government has not thought through its policy development. This coalition Government talks about a “global race” but this does not mean that legislative change have to be rushed through without considering the evidence first. Get it wrong and the impact will be felt for many years.
Instead of the Coalition trying to please each other, why not listen to the people that placed you there, consider the evidence from experts and then make a decision.
Now it would great if Matthew Hancock the joint BIS/DfE Minister would follow his Leader and reconsider his policy on Careers Advice, especially in light of the recent Education Select Committee report that slammed the Governments approach and the impact it is having on young people. We await a response.
The Government is introducing some changes to the way in which young people get Careers Advice. Put simply, schools will determine who should receive face to face guidance and this will be supplemented by a national telephone helpline and web site.
This got me thinking about my experience of Careers Advice. As a 16 year old leaving school in 1981, I was asked to go to Room B and meet someone who would give me advice on my career. The man behind the desk said, “What do you like doing”, I replied, “Well I like cars mucking about with cars”. This response prompted him to reach for a leaflet; he passed it to me and said. There you go son, this is information on how to become a car mechanic and with that I was ushered outside. No guidance, no challenge to my statement, no discussion. That was it. The intervention probably lasted about 2 minutes.
Life has a great sense of humour and as my career developed I have led a Connexions Service which has been responsible for delivering Careers Guidance to 13-19 year olds across six south London boroughs. Whilst there has never been a golden age of Careers Guidance Services, I can tell you that since my experience at school, Careers Guidance Services have greatly improved. A relentless approach to monitoring the quality of a service has always been at the forefront of what I do, and providers who I have contracted to deliver such services have not always appreciated why I have taken this stance. However as the Government pushes through its changes there is a real danger that some young people will not get any face to face guidance but will instead be directed to a website. This may suit some, but there is nothing better than sitting down with a qualified and competent individual and getting good solid impartial advice.
I fear that with this Governments approach avoiding any monitoring of such services from an external source that some young people will get the sort of intervention that I received, which is simply not good enough. In the debate on Careers Services which took place this week, Andy Burnham, the Shadow Secretary of State for Education asked the Government if the sort of service that they have planned would be good enough for their children. We still await the answer.
You can access a copy of the Hansard note for the debate on Careers at:
Some Thoughts on Young people who are Not in Education/Employment or Training (NEET) & what good programmes look like.
The latest youth unemployment figures of just under 1m paints a very depressing but very clear picture that after so much investment we still have persistent NEET & intergenerational disadvantage which in my opinion is a growing problem. To deal with this issue what is needed is quite radical reform and moving away from the implicit belief that this is essentially the operational preserve of public sector agencies.
In opposition the Coalition parties made much of the issue of youth unemployment. But in government they have not presented clear or coherent strategy to include young people in the labour market apart from the existing apprenticeship programme and a far from clear offer of a National Citizen Service. This risks the creation of a lost generation, causing long term damage to our economy and society. A lesson learned during the 1980s is that high unemployment carries huge social cost – poorer health, higher crime and social breakdown.
Characteristics of good programmes:
As a Director of a Local Authority Shared Service commissioning programmes for young people across six diverse areas in South London, proven programmes work where we see the following characteristics:
Personalisation: Tailor the programme around the individual. Focus on their needs and have a clear understanding of the causal factors that prevent the individual from progressing.
Family support: Families/households with multiple issues should receive specific integrated multi-agency support with an employment/career dimension being a cross-cutting theme. Build on this by using role models where families, peers, neighbours have broken free from the poverty of aspiration by getting a job and contributing to society.
Labour market links: active preparation of local labour markets, individual employers and other providers to take supported risk with low-skilled, low-achievers with ‘chequered histories’ is essential to success. The message that is often cited by participants is that programmes lead nowhere/back to benefits because they do not leverage employment opportunities, can undermine fatally programmes that achieve the first two characteristics.
Sustainability: short-term statistical gains, just chasing numbers frequently conceal long-term problems, as ‘churn’ clearly demonstrates. How many times do we have the same young person presenting themselves as NEET once they have finished a programme? Solutions for NEET clients must focus on sustainability if these intergenerational cycles are to be broken. Greater emphasis on progression (in skills and income), aftercare and overcoming the ‘benefits trap’ is the solution.
Local Authorities, schools, the Community & Voluntary sector as well as the private sector need to lay down their territorial boundaries and work seamlessly to eradicate the growing numbers of NEET. Each sector has a very important role to play but those who work in Local Government will also need to provide a very different leadership and be more open to very new and radical ideas that are presented. This will be uncomfortable to those in local government who are just used to a tendering exercise.
Local Government leaders will need to be more visible in their local communities working alongside their Councillors. I cannot recall where I live, seeing my local Director of Children Services, Lead member or Chief Executive walking the borough. They would probably argue that they are far too busy, leaving such jobs for elected members, but if they truly do have the best interests of their community at the centre of what they do then they do need to be more visible.
Nationally, Labour has had a good track record of providing investment, which we know with the current government is not there. If Mr Cameron wants to truly make a difference, perhaps he may consider using the key characteristics as a test for each of his initiatives/programmes including his National Citizen Service.