National Careers Service boosts provision

The National Careers Service (NCS) is to launch a range of services in 12 regions and is searching for contractors to take on the work.

Tenders have been invited for an “enhanced” provision of the current service from April 1, 2014.

The announcement comes as the service, launched by former Skills Minister John Hayes, celebrates its first anniversary.

It is part of the Skills Funding Agency, whose chief executive, Kim Thorneywork, said the service had achieved “great success” in its first year, providing advice that helped many people to get the right skills to enable them to “grow and prosper”.

She said that an “enhanced” service, focused on local needs, would build on that success. “We are aiming to continue to increase the reach and impact of the service.”

According to a position statement seen by FE Week, the local contracts will cover the maintenance of regional website pages, telephone facilities and community-based face-to-face services.

A national contact centre will provide personalised careers advice and refer adult customers to local telephone facilities, and an improved national website will allow customers to store and access their careers information and provide access to local sites.

Local contractors will liaise with local enterprise partnerships and Jobcentre Plus to provide up-to-date local labour market intelligence and information for the NCS, as well at its customers, advisers and partners.

The position statement said that the agency wanted to encourage more flexible and innovative approaches to delivering careers advice, “working collaboratively with partners, reflecting the drive towards localism and growth”.

Contractors will be able to bid in more than one of the 12 areas, “provided they are able to meet the detail and quality of the specification in each area for which they bid”, according to the document.

Face-to-face services will be available to prisoners as part of a move to target priority groups, which also include low skilled adults, ex-offenders, people with learning difficulties, unemployed people, including those aged 18-24 not in employment, education  or training, and those facing redundancy or recently redundant.

The agency’s estimates suggest that during its first year the NCS has provided guidance to more than 800,000 people; 76 per cent report progress in work or learning within six months.

To build on this, the service said it would also implement an outcome-based funding model that encouraged advisers to focus on achieving positive outcomes relating to customer satisfaction, personal career management, employment and learning.”

Interested contractors must fill in a pre-qualification questionnaire on the agency Bravo e-tendering portal before May 7. Contracts will be  awarded at the end of October.