Careers report ‘ducks’ funding issues

A report that called for a “culture change” on careers guidance has been criticised for shying away from “difficult underlying issues”.

The National Careers Council’s first report, An Aspirational Nation: Creating a culture change in careers provision, featured seven recommendations including a significant expansion in the work of the National Careers Service (NCS).

“A culture change is needed in careers provision for young people and adults to address the mismatch of skills shortages and high unemployment,” said the report, launched earlier this month.

The report of the council, set up by the government in May last year, also called for face-to-face careers guidance to be available to all pupils from the age of 12 (Year 8); and for all students to have a planned progression route upon leaving school. A further recommendation was the creation of an employer-led NCS advisory board.

However, former council members Professor Tony Watts and Heather Jackson distanced themselves from the report, claiming it ducked the issue of funding.

The duo issued a joint statement that said: “We consider the report’s conspicuous omissions represent a major missed opportunity; a reluctance to address the difficult underlying issues, and a level of acquiescence with current government policies with which we would not wish to be associated.”

A council spokesperson said: “Our report acknowledged that to expand the NCS to support schools, young people and parents, would require resourcing . . . it is for the government to respond as to how this may be achieved.”

The duo walked out on the council early last month in a row over a draft of the report that went before Skills Minister Matthew Hancock.

Their damning resignation statement said the draft proposed a rebalancing of funding that allowed the Department for Education (DfE) “to escape its responsibilities”.

They claimed it suggested adult funding from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) — which funded the NCS with £83m in contrast to £7m from the DfE — might be used to pay for young people’s careers guidance.

Their statement on the published report said the issue had not been corrected.

“Most of the recommendations are directed not to the government but to the NCS, without any attention to how its new responsibilities are to be funded and built into NCS contracts in an accountable way,” said their statement.

The council spokesperson added: “We felt it was not appropriate to demand additional money from the DfE. It was more our task to set out the case as to why career provision was important and to make the argument to government as to why it should give this area high priority.”

Meanwhile, the council’s recommendation of an employer-led NCS advisory board was described by 157 Group executive director Lynne Sedgmore as a “positive development”.