Closure of Careers Offices

THE CLOSURE OF CAREERS ADVICE SERVICES IS HURTING THE YOUNG UNEMPLOYED

Special CLCH report by Andy Gardner with additional reporting by Jane Clinton

May 2015

THE CLOSURE of careers advice offices is having a catastrophic effect on the potential of our young unemployed and creating a “postcode lottery”, research has revealed. 

The research by the careers advisers training  service, Central London Careers Hub (CLCH), found that 90 per cent of local authorities with no, or very limited, careers advice offices lost touch with many young people Not in Education or Employment (NEET). These authorities also struggled to get them back into Education, Employment or Training (EET). 

This contrasted with local authorities which scored highly on their knowledge of what their NEETs were doing and their ability to re-engage them in EET. Of those local authorities that scored highly, 93% had careers/youth support office provision. 

Graham Stuart, former chair of the education select committee said: “Careers choices and the guidance to help inform young people have never been more important. 

“This research proves the need for every area to ensure the provision of first-class careers advice and guidance including face-to-face provision from trained professionals.” 

Thurrock scored highest for knowing the activity of their NEETs while Bracknell Forest came top for re-engaging their NEETs in EET.  Both have careers advice offices/provisions. 

Former Secretary Of State for Education and Skills, Estelle Morris has looked at this research and feels that ‘there is widespread agreement that the quality of career guidance available to young people has suffered since the responsibility was devolved to schools. This research looks at how careers guidance can respond to the way in which we address the important issue of young people who are designated as NEET depending on how it is provided. It does seem to show that there are better alternatives than giving the power to schools. As such it is an important contribution to a very important issue.’

The crisis in careers provision comes on the back of Michael Gove’s 2011 move to transfer most of the responsibilities for careers education and guidance away from local authorities and pass them on to schools.

Approximately £200 million was withdrawn from local authorities and they then had to decide whether to use other budgets to try to keep open a careers office. 

While some have made attempts to provide a service to their young people, others rely too heavily on offering advice through websites or telephone lines and there are those that have given up completely. 

In some cases it was revealed school receptionists were enlisted to give careers advice. 

According to Bob Harrison, Delivery Director at the careers advice service Adviza based in the Thames Valley which has been a success story,  when it comes to young people being able to access meaningful careers advice the service across the country is patchy and inconsistent. 

“It is a real postcode lottery and it is travesty,” he said. “It is so inconsistent and there is a significant lack of equality of opportunity. Young people are getting a completely different offer depending on where they live and their parents are getting a completely different offer depending on where their children are educated and that is a shame, a massive shame.” 

In the research by the CLCH, Buckinghamshire and Bracknell, which are areas covered by Adviza scored highly in knowing the activity of their NEETs and re-engaging them in EET respectively,. 

“Having a designated centre means there is somewhere safe and familiar for young people as well as offering a regular, friendly face with whom young people can work,” said Harrison.

“The highly skilled careers advice professionals can understand and probe and do the job and pick up on the non-verbal cues and get to know a person. That face-to-face element is very powerful in supporting young people.” 

The impact of the downgrading of the careers advice service has been criticised by CBI chief, John Cridland, who warned it was on “life support”. 

“Young people need reliable, high-quality advice but the system is too dependent on individual teachers or it’s left to family and frtiends to try and pick up the pieces – that’s simply not good enough,” he said in 2013.

Steve Stewart, executive director of Careers England said the CLCH report highlighted the “moral and economic argument” for investment in careers advice services. 

“The moral argument is simply you are only young once and if you don’t invest in our young people to give them all the help they need when they need it we will pick up the tab later in terms of them being in the wrong place, disenchanted angry and unfulfilled,” he said. 

“The economic argument, whichever statistic you use, is the cost to local authority services, be it social care, be it youth offending, be it the costs in terms of behavioural issues is somewhere between £20,000-£60,000 per annum per individual who is NEET. And that is a huge amount. 

“We always talk about prevention being better than cure, well the careers adviser’s job is to give a sense of confidence, self-worth and belief to their clients. Once somebody does that the impact is huge. The question is can you get that from the Internet? You cannot do any better than having face-to-face eye contact. All the emotional intelligence that goes with it is massively powerful. Theoretically you can get the information off a website but it is just not that same.”

Andy Gardner, the report’s author and founder of the Central London Careers Hub said:  “Drilling into the data, when you look at two local authorities badly affected by the riots, it’s madness that Salford’s provision is so good and Croydon’s is so bad. What kind of a society have we become if you are not offering our young people a safe and friendly place where they can talk to somebody about their future?”

The data is from the Department for Education’s NEET Scorecard (which was published in December 2014) and research conducted by the Central London Careers Hub (CLCH).

On average local authority performance for England is as follows: 

%16-18 year olds NEET – 5.3

% 16-18 years whose activity is known to the local authority – 90.8

% 16-18 year olds NEET re-engaging in EET – 7.5

Careers Office Closure CLCH Basic Data April 2015

LA Top Bottom 10 Careers Office CLCH April 2015

NEET Scorecard

Notes:

1. In December 2014 the Department for Education released a largely ignored document called the Neet Scorecard.  The document contained the latest local authority figures for Neets (Not in Education, Employment and Training).  Its purpose was to:

• allow local authorities and their partners to monitor their own performance and compare it with that of others

• aim to put the local authorities’ NEET figures into context by setting them alongside a range of other related information

On the face of it there seemed to be some good news stories, for example Learning Plus UK reported that “Notably, Inner London became the region with the lowest percentage of 16-18 year olds NEET (3.8%). This is of even greater interest when you consider that the region had one of the highest percentages in the previous year.”

However, if you drill down into this document there is some other data that seems more worrying, for example the % 16-18 year olds whose activity is known to the local authority.

When we look at Inner London local authorities, the % 16-18 year olds whose activity is known to the local authority is 83%, so 17% of them are unknown.  So maybe it’s not such a good news story in Inner London after all.  How many of the 17% are NEETs?

2. This research concentrates firstly on, % 16-18 year olds whose activity is known to the local authority and secondly on, % 16-18 year old Neets who are re-engaging in employment education and training. 

The first piece of data tells us how good the local authority is at knowing what its 16-18 years olds are doing and the second piece of data tells us how good the local authority is in getting its known Neets into education, employment or training.  If we are going to compare what Local authorities are doing, then these are the two most important bits of data.

3. The question we set ourselves was, according to the data in the NEET Scorecard, is there any link between local authorities who have made a serious attempt to maintain some sort of public careers office and then having above average or below average performance on the knowing their 16-18 year olds measure and re-engaging their NEETs measure?

For these measures the scorecard has a range of 1-5, with scores 1 and 2 being above average and 4 and 5 below average.

We then identified all the local authorities in England who had scored 1 or 2 on both of these measures and then all those who had scored 4 and 5 on these measures.  Then for all of these local authorities we then researched (using Google) whether they were still offering an accessible public careers office or not. If a local authority scored for example 2 and 4 on these measures then they have not been included in the research.

Many local authorities have closed all their public offices so these were easy to identify from websites.  Some local authorities have moved to an extremely limited provision such as half a day in a library, we do not consider this as provision of a public careers office.  We have had to use our discretion on this issue and accept we may have identified some local authorities provision wrongly. The trends were so overwhelming however, that we still stand by the overall claims. We accept this situation is fluid, for example we know that Wokingham has reduced its Careers Advice provision and Enfield should be acknowledged for recently increasing its provision.

4. We have ignored the general 16-18 % Neet figure because it provides a smokescreen for local authorities to hide behind. A local authority such as Lambeth could say, that despite of the closing of its public Careers Office it has a figure of 2.7% 16-18 year old NEETs, well below the England average of 5.3%, but this has to be set against data that shows that they do not know what 22.5% of their 16-18 year olds are doing. Rutland has %16-18 year old NEETS of 1.8%, so does Harrow. Harrow knows what 98.6% of them are doing while Rutland only knows about 63.3%.

5. We have ignored the September Guarantee measure, from what we can see it is meaningless.

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