IAG and the Holy Grail of Careers Advice by Jayne Stigger @fossa99

The trim, middle-aged, twin-suited lady lowered her spectacles and sniffed; girls in Grammar Schools in the early ‘70’s do not ask such questions her look inferred. “To be an … ‘astronaut’, hmm” she repeated slowly and handed me a leaflet containing details of the local Pitmans Shorthand/typing course. “Off you go dear, that’s much more suitable”. Like @toni-pearce, I had many phases; paelontologist, astronaut, pilot, scientist and internationally renowned jazz singer. It almost broke my heart to see that this bright, motivated, intelligent young girl was nor more able to access good CEIAG (Careers Education Initial Advice and Guidance) now, than I had been forty years ago.

On Wednesday, Nicky Hunt Secretary of State for Education was in front of the House of Commons’ Education Select Committee to answer concerns about Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance. Tweets of her responses, as she spoke, were depressing reading.

@careerslr 83% of schools no longer employ prof adviser. @ACunninghamMP – is she going to mandate for careers specialists? @NickyMorgan01 – no!

.@grahamstuart says he can see no difference between roles of company and NCS. "If I'm confused you can't blame some outside" @CommonsEd

@NickyMorgan01 insists they will work together and that new co is not a direct delivery service of IAG. #careers @CommonsEd

And so on. £20 million pounds, with no guaranteed funding for future years and no direct delivery of IAG – pointless box-ticking.

Seated in the Churchill Room in the House of Commons, somewhere I find both inspiring and terrifying, with delicious canapé’s and neck-stretching architecture, @dp40days and I watched as Alex Cunningham from the Select Committee hosted an event on CEIAG with speakers including @Y_FovargueMP and @LiamByrneMP, @JoeVinson, @Tonipearce and many representatives from the NUS, Unison, the CBI and the Career Development Institute. This was clearly a subject close to many hearts, especially Katie Shaw @sewdarngood from the NUS who was kind enough to invite us on behalf of #UKFECHAT.

What struck me was just how interested the speakers were in our opinion, how quick they were to introduce themselves and how attentively they listened. Yes, it’s an election year but the sense of genuine concern was far more palpable than I’d heard in the morning session.

The audience were experienced and knowledgeable too; Janet Colledge @CareersDefender generously listened and shared her expertise as did others. Many made good points but it was obvious from listening that only beyond Hadrian’s Wall was there anything approaching a joined up system. English careers advice and IAG is at best chaotic, at worst damaging the futures of hundreds of thousands of students without care or thought for the consequences.

There was no shortage of suggestions on how to fix this. Ensure schools comply with a statutory duty of care, have a universal system of L6 minimum experts, power up Ofsted to act as an aggressive Welsh Collie, delving into education and rounding everyone into compliance? Others suggested local hubs, others a network for exchanging expertise, one suggested a Royal College of Careers Advisors.

The issues we face are huge:

  • Students given selective advice in schools. Only particular, favoured options are presented.
  • Many FE colleges are locked out of schools
  • Many schools promote only the academic option, flattering to their prospectus
  • Many students in FE, if they manage to get there at all, do not get sufficient range of options beyond ‘UNIVERSITY’. Staff do their best but students need proper guidance.
  • Apprenticeships, vocational routes, even a job, are less valued than UNIVERSITY One speaker said “We've got to stop thinking of A levels as Heinz beans & apprenticeships as Aldi beans" says @Y_FovargueMP. #IAG
  • Adult returners, after an illness, redundancy, years of looking after sick relatives, being ill themselves or looking after children have no help either.
  • Too many students get advice from the receptionist, some teacher’s wife or are directed to the NCS, possibly the dullest website ever.
  • Far too many institutions put their own reputation ahead of the needs of the students
  • There is dire inflexibility in our education system due to a rolling onslaught of policy changes, changing economic and social demands and funding cuts.
  • Employers have almost no role in educational careers advice.
  • As a nation, we do not offer consistent care and support that will enable people to reach their potential and do so many times.
  • There is no such thing as ‘a job for life’ anymore; our economy has changed and will continue to do so. People need to retrain many times in their lives, not simply fade away to avoid spoiling some nice statistic.

The #NUS is right to raise this; it is shameful that we cannot advise our young on how to succeed without our own ego blocking their paths and restricting their options.

Clearly, change is needed, urgently. I hope for a system that is universal for all, accessible by all from those with no idea to those with a clear determination, for all of their lifetimes, in all circumstances from ex-prisoners through LLDD students, fathers and mothers returning to the job markets to eager 15 year olds determined to be the world’s best plumber/scientist/chef. It should have employers, experts and enthusiasm. Funding should be generous, sustained and locked.

A day in the House of Commons representing #UKFECHAT demonstrated that many people, with great expertise and far more knowledge than me are now trying to fix this. Those of us in education, who care about our students fully support their efforts and offer our help.