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Supporting our next generation with post-16 choices

The latest report from the Social Mobility Commission (SMC) The road not taken: drivers of course selection is an interesting examination of the key drivers of post-16 choices among young people.

The report draws on data from young people who took their GCSEs back in the mid-2000s and reflects many of the issues prevalent and pervasive at that time. However, it is equally important to recognise that young people’s background and social factors still have a significant impact on career choices.

What was true for the younger generation of the mid- 2000s is true for our next generation now. Early exposure to career guidance through a strong national infrastructure that supports delivery shaped to the needs of local communities is crucial to raising ambition, aspiration and broadening opportunity.

The landscape of careers education has been transformed in recent years. Since its establishment in 2015, The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) has worked with and created dynamic partnerships between schools, colleges, employers and local agencies in communities across the country.

Our common purpose focus is to make sure that young people’s career choices are linked to their talent and passion, not simply their circumstance. That every young person, regardless of their background, can achieve the best possible start to their working life and to realise their potential.

An essential part of this is empowering young people to make informed post-16 decisions that enable them to choose the path that’s right for them. There are three key pillars to this work.

Partnerships.

The CEC currently works with 80 per cent of state-funded schools and colleges and more than 3,000 volunteer business professionals who help to facilitate strategic engagement with employers. Together they ensure that young people have exposure to career guidance early on to challenge harmful stereotypes and expectations based on gender, ethnicity or social class.

The evidence shows that this alliance between business and schools has led to more employers than ever now involved with young people. More than 3.3 million young people are now experiencing regular encounters with employers. This is leading to higher awareness of the range of pathways, improved careers-related skills, and better destinations.

Leadership.

Teachers have limited exposure to technical education and career guidance through their training. The CEC supports Careers Leaders in schools and colleges to deliver impartial information on the range of choices available to young people through professional development.

By the end of this academic year, The CEC will have funded 2,000 Careers Leader training places, with 96 per cent saying it has helped them identify areas to improve their knowledge and practice in delivering careers guidance.

This training has led to significant improvements in the exposure students now have with Further Education and apprenticeship providers - helping ensure young people can see the full range of options and choices available to them.

Targeting.

We have built a universal infrastructure with additional targeted support in areas of high needs.  Careers Hubs are at the core of this targeted approach. More than 2,200 secondary schools and colleges (45% of the total number across the country) are now in Careers Hubs and the Government’s commitment to national roll-out in the ‘Skills for Jobs’ White Paper means that number will soon exceed 60 per cent.

Career guidance performance is accelerated in Careers Hubs. Additional levels of targeted support have helped schools and colleges in Hubs to become three times more effective in offering encounters with the broad range of FE and HE providers to all or an overwhelming majority of their young people than elsewhere. Targeted investment has therefore sped up progress in areas of disadvantage - broadening horizons, raising aspirations and opening up opportunities for young people most in need of support. The CEC’s ever-improving digital infrastructure will allow us to further target support to young people early on to help them choose the path that’s best for them.

The CEC will continue to expand its offer so that support reaches every young person in England, targeting resource to those who need it most to make a robust contribution to post-Covid renewal and recovery.