Special interview: Minister speaks to FE Week about careers strategy

Special interview: Minister speaks to FE Week about careers strategy

The long-awaited careers strategy was revealed to the world in a conference hall in Solihull earlier today. FE Week was there for the first exclusive interview with the skills minister who brought it – at last – to fruition.

Anne Milton admitted that there will be those in the sector who still think that more money is needed to make the careers strategy work, and will review it next year, based on its outcomes.

Just moments after walking off stage to encouraging, if not ecstatic, applause, she acknowledged that when it comes to government policy, there is “always something else”.

“Everybody would like more money. I know everybody would like more money,” she told FE Week, adding: “But a strategy should be reviewed, shouldn’t it?

“I think we should always look at how it’s going. Somebody asked me what success looks like. Well, we need to see some progress in a year’s time.”

Key points in the strategy, which was launched at the Career Development Institute’s annual conference, include £5 million for developing 20 careers hubs in disadvantaged areas and £4 million for a career guidance leader in every school and college in the country.

Milton also used her speech to apologise for such a late launch, but talked passionately about social mobility and creating a country where everyone is free to “fulfil their dreams”.

Last year, FE Week reported that the Careers and Enterprise Company, set up in 2015 to connect young people to the world of work, was creating a postcode lottery for FE coverage: 15 LEPs were not covered and London was completely absent.

Today’s careers strategy outlined plans to allow all colleges to access an enterprise advisor by 2020. Are the issues with CEC coverage in FE now being addressed then?

Milton answered “yes”, and insisted the organisation was “brilliant” at “harnessing the skills of employers”.

“The drive comes from both directions really. Us pushing schools to make sure careers advice is good, that people who provide technical education and know about apprenticeships come into schools, and also employers from the other side,” she said.

“I think the two together will hopefully squeeze young people into a place where they will get all the information they need. But I think we haven’t made the best use of labour-market information and I think colleges have quite an important role to play in the use of that information.

“You can go to college or do A-levels in a certain subject, or go to university or do a degree at a college, but actually what you need is labour-market information. There are very few people who can afford the luxury to study for the sheer enjoyment of it,” she added.

Responding to questions from delegates at the end of her speech, Milton also insisted that “joined-up government thinking” is integral, and that it wouldn’t be just another “political cliché that people mention from time to time”.

“We’re at a new beginning. We will see where we are in years’ time, but I think we will have made considerable progress,” she insisted.