A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.
It’s an uncertain world of education, in which real changes – to schools’ funding, to the provision of CEIAG, university fees, the raising of the age of participation (RPA) – combine with mooted proposals – changes to exam structures, the potential demise of GCSEs, unqualified teachers for academies and free schools, altered requirements for PE in spite of Olympic successes – to confuse young people and professionals alike.
Add to this the uncertainty of the labour market, levels of youth unemployment, changes to housing benefits, the Work Programme and the Youth Contract, and it is not the time to be relying on anything but a highly qualified, well-trained CEIAG workforce with up-to-date knowledge of this complex area.
Best of all, as a young person at this time you’d really want to know that there was someone you could meet face to face to sort out your problems or clarify your ideas: the trusted adult you’re comfortable and confident with. Advisers now are real specialists with an understanding of a young person’s holistic needs, knowing that if your life is chaotic or you have unmet health needs your chance of making and keeping to useful decisions about your education are diminished.
CEIAG has come a very long way from the days when a careers teacher appeared for a few hours in a broom cupboard – sorry, temporary office – and told the (then) fifth form what their options were, which included state-funded university places or reasonably easy access to paid employment.
A case of responsibility
But as the responsibility for careers guidance passes formally to schools, while local authorities retain responsibilities for young people with learning difficulties and disabilities, or those who are out of education, it is not impossible that those days will return – minus the free university places and the jobs.
As with any broad responsibility, some schools will provide excellent, independent CEIAG that look at a young person’s best interests and signposts them to wrap-around support; others will use reduced budgets as an excuse to offer the bare minimum, focusing on keeping as many of their students within their own courses, regardless of the most appropriate progression routes.
National Careers Service
The National Careers Service is providing experienced, impartial support via its free-phone number, website and social media – all of which is to be applauded. But for a young person whose school support is inadequate, or who doesn’t have a school place, there are hidden disadvantages.
Today’s young people have mobiles, not landlines, and a call to an 0800 number, which the service says may last up to 30 minutes, is an exorbitantly unaffordable luxury rather than a right. And for those who don’t possess the technology to access the website or social media, the option of going to use the computers in the public library, the traditional response for the technologically unconnected, is much less helpful: library services are taking similar-sized cuts to youth services, doubly disenfranchising the already disadvantaged, and providing yet another post-code lottery.
Youth workers, aware of the needs of the young people they support, are in some areas being asked to provide CEIAG in the absence of a dedicated service. While this is well-intentioned, they don’t have the specialist skills and updated knowledge required to do this properly; CEIAG is a profession, just as youth work is.
We have to take every opportunity to make the case for universal access to appropriate, high quality, holistic, impartial CEIAG, wherever a young person lives or studies. Like good youth work, it should start where the young person is, not be driven by a single, formulaic system in which one size fits only those who probably don’t need it anyway.
With the introduction of the RPA, it should be available to those in sixth form and FE colleges as well as schools; it should be available from Year 8 upwards, to help young people think about their futures, without setting them in stone – for how many of us can say that in our early teens we could have predicted the job we’re doing now? In fact, some of our jobs didn’t even exist back then, and this is increasingly true of the labour market today.
The DfE and BIS consultation on CEIAG in schools and colleges has now closed; the Select Committee will hear evidence in September. In London, a campaign is building to call for a regional entitlement, as a move towards ensuring fair access to high quality face to face CEIAG for all the capital’s young people. The last word should rest with young people themselves: we should not ignore the fact that the list of campaigns chosen at the UKYP sitting to go forward to be voted on in November included an open access drop in centre in every town. What more needs to be said?
Strategic Director, Partnership for Young London