Halfon: Careers advice at colleges ‘state of the art’ but schools not good enough

The skills and apprenticeships minster has hailed the “state of the art” careers advice that colleges deliver, but called on schools to “do more” as he looks ahead to unveiling the government’s ‘comprehensive careers strategy’.

Robert Halfon told an audience of education professionals at Westminster Academy today that careers guidance would play a “significant part” in the government’s industrial strategy as set out in its green paper last week.

Speaking about the government’s comprehensive careers strategy today – which was supposed to be released in the first few weeks of 2016, but has been delayed until later this year – Mr Halfon said “the facts are” that students “are not getting enough good careers advice on skills and apprenticeships” from schools and they need to “do more”.

But speaking exclusively to FE Week after the event, the minister said the work he has seen by colleges on careers guidance had been on the opposite end of the spectrum and labelled it as “excellent”.

“Whatever colleges I have visited the careers advice there has been state of the art,” Mr Halfon said.

“I cannot think of one college I have been to where the careers advice has not been excellent.

“Around 70 per cent of our colleges are good or outstanding and I’ve gone to see amazing apprenticeship schemes where they have progressed into employment and other forms of training and enterprise.”

The minister’s view will be a welcomed breath of fresh air for the FE sector after being continually lambasted by Ofsted over careers advice in recent years.

Former chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw labelled careers guidance in colleges as “uniformly weak” in July last year but was the exposed by FE Week for lacking any identifiable external source or inspection based evidence.

Mr Halfon said today that “on the whole”, the work he has seen in FE on careers advice has been “really good”.

Plans for a comprehensive careers strategy were first unveiled in 2015, and it was expected to be released in early 2016.

However, the government admitted in its green paper on its new industrial strategy last week that a review of careers advice was still ongoing, and that the strategy would now be published later in 2017.

The Department for Education has pledged to spend £90 million on careers in this parliament, most of which has gone to the Careers and Enterprise Company to fund its network of enterprise advisers, mentoring scheme and grant scheme.

The Careers and Enterprise Company, first announced by former education secretary Nicky Morgan in December 2014, was launched in the summer of 2015.

On December 2, FE Week reported that the colleges and local enterprise partnerships included in the Careers and Enterprise Company’s “enterprise adviser network” also revealed a postcode lottery for FE coverage, with 15 LEPs not covered – and London completely absent.

Claudia Harris, the company’s chief executive, confirmed that it did not work with any of the capital’s 44 FE and sixth form colleges.

She said the company was working with “nearly all” local enterprise partnerships across the country, but the list of colleges that FE Week saw listed just 24 of the 39 LEPs.

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