Government misses target to recruit volunteer careers advisers

The Government has admitted to missing its target to recruit 300 ‘volunteer enterprise advisers’ by the end of March this year, with 127 places yet to be filled.

In a response to a parliamentary written question about the government’s careers initiatives, it was revealed that the Department for Education (DfE) currently has just 173 (or 60%) of the advisers in place.

The role of the volunteer enterprise advisers is to support young people between 12-18 in schools and colleges with careers advice.

Commenting on the response to his written question, Labour’s Shadow Skills Minister Gordon Marsden said: “Over a year and a half since Ministers first announced their Careers and Enterprise Company, there is very little clarity on what focus or priorities it will have.

“How on earth does the Government expect to try to resurrect a careers programme with such flimsy foundations?

“Young people make career decisions on the basis of their own hands-on experiences as well as from advice by adults. Yet, the DfE continues to fail young people – by not including an obligation for work experience at Key Stage 4 in the curriculum.”

Mr Marsden estimates that with only 173 advisers in place, each currently has responsibility for supporting 18,408 students at secondary school level and 4,600 students in FE and sixth form colleges, making 23,000 young people in total.

When the Government reaches its 300 target, each adviser will support around 13,000 students.

He added that young people “are in danger of being short-changed” over their future career options, with information, advice and guidance or vocational routes in particular remaining “very restricted”.

The Careers and Enterprise Company, first announced by education secretary Nick Morgan in December 2014, was launched in the summer of 2015. Led by chief executive Claudia Harris, the company now has 18 full time equivalent staff members.

Ms Harris commented on the finding, saying: “In what can be a confusing landscape, we use targeted evidence and interventions to make it easier for schools, colleges, employers and careers and enterprise providers to work effectively together to support young people. By working in partnership with other organisations, we are able to significantly amplify our reach.

“We are working with the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to build local networks of senior business volunteers to connect to schools and colleges, and we are funding existing providers to scale-up proven careers and enterprise programmes in areas of need.”

She added that in its first year, the company has launched three key interventions which it is “delivering ahead of schedule”.

These include an analysis of areas in England where young people face the greatest need for careers and enterprise provision; the launch of a £5m Careers & Enterprise Fund to invest in organisations in these areas of need; and the launch of the Enterprise Adviser network, which is active in 35 LEPs with over 400 schools.

“The core of our approach is to work in partnership with others, building on what works and testing and learning as we go, to help better inspire and prepare young people across England for work,” she said.

When asked about missing the recruitment target, a Department for Education spokesperson: “Latest figures show the number of young people not in education or training is at the lowest on record and we have the highest ever number of young people going into higher education.

“We have introduced a more rigorous curriculum so every child learns the basic skills they need such as English and maths so they can go on to fulfill their potential whether they are going into the world of work or continuing their studies.

“We are investing £70 million in our careers strategy over the course of this parliament to transform the quality of careers education. We have also set up the Careers & Enterprise Company to bring young people into contact with employers and develop closer links with employers so they can play a greater role in preparing young people for the world of work.”


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  1. From October to December 2015, there were 853,000 young people aged from 16 to 24 in the UK who were not in education, employment or training (NEET). The rate at which youth unemployment is falling is also slowing down. Youth unemployment is still too high and should not be seen as a success.

    Many of the young people (16-24) who engage with us at Youth Employment UK tell us that poor careers information and support along with a lack of work experience is the main barrier for them. It is not to hard to imagine that young people in the system today will site the same sort of issues when they complete their education if we soon do not start to see some real progress in this area.

    There have been countless reports and recommendations to government including our own in 2015 that call for a more intensive, supportive careers and work experience focus in our schools. Young people regularly say that they want to talk face to face with someone with expertise. There are concerns that the volunteer strategy is a big risk. Businesses are busy and many brilliantly offer their time but can this replace the need for individual trained support? Many agree a blended approach of face to face guidance, employer contact and work experience alongside an embedded curriculum for careers would be the best mix. This was highlighted in The Gatsby Report that both Careers and Enterprise Company and DfE acknowledge as a good strategy.

    It is disappointing to say the least that the Careers and Enterprise Company have not met their target and it seems are not receiving the support from DfE to ensure schools have a clear mandate to use the service for all pupils. We know that there are schools not engaging with the service putting many more pupils at risk from leaving the education system without the skills, experience and knowledge to make an informed choice about their next steps. The landscape for young people is very confusing and in its year and a half it is hard to see what evidence there is that the careers and enterprise company has smoothed out that landscape making it any easier for young people to navigate.

    We have to move faster and respond to the needs of all students if we are going to make a difference. That’s a pretty big ask of anyone but the company has had significant investment, staffing and support from DfE I hope that it is able to start making the impact all young people need.

    This government has an ambition for full employment, to achieve that it needs to step up its careers eduction strategy.

  2. I’m not convinced another ‘entity’ in the sector is the solution (The Careers and Enterprise Co) – in some ways that just muddies the waters further – it’s a crowded place with lot’s of bodies trying to carve out where they sit.
    As far as the advisers are concerned, sounds great as a sound bite but trying to target the skill set and experience from the people they are looking for and then saying it’s voluntary seems like it could be adversely affecting the low numbers. I’m sure that most of 18 FTE in The Careers and Enterprise Company are not volunteers.

    (and I concur with LJ too).