Local employer governors: connecting schools with their local economy
Careers information advice and guidance has gone through some radical changes over the last couple of years. The days when every school had a careers advisor and young people could access Connexions on the high street are sadly, in most instances, no more. Since September 2012, schools have been placed under a duty to secure independent and impartial careers advice, but have not been given any additional funding to do so. This shift has happened at a time when changes in the occupational landscape and reduced demand in the economy mean that young people’s choices are becoming more complex and jobs more competitive.
Let’s not kid ourselves either. Careers advice and guidance in the UK has never been perfect. When the Government was looking at making changes to the system, they missed an opportunity to radically look at what young people require, at what points in the school journey young people need information and face-to-face guidance and at how to make careers information and guidance more applicable to the local area in which the young person lives.
With over one million young people out of work, it’s important for us to look at what more can be done and to work with young people earlier to ensure they are ready to make the transition from education into work. Today, 48 per cent of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) have no experience of sustained paid employment beyond casual and holiday work. This means over 450,000 young people have been unable to make the move from learning into employment. Whose job is it to make sure young people transition successfully?
In our recent research with The Work Foundation, The Missing Million programme, we highlight the need for a tri-approach to ensuring young people have the qualifications, skills and confidence they need to transition successfully into the workplace. Schools, employers and government need to work together.
If employers have not played their part in preparing young people for work while still in education, they cannot expect young people to be job-ready from day one. Schools must collaborate with local businesses and help students gain a better understanding of the opportunities that are available to them and what skills and qualifications they will need to succeed. Government must re-examine its policy around Information Advice and Guidance (IAG); if responsibility remains de-centralised to schools then they must monitor quality and compliance.
One simple idea that could be adopted by every school in the country is for schools to have a “local employer governor” on their board, responsible for the development of the school’s engagement with local businesses. The local employer governor would also be responsible for providing teachers with up-to-date local labour market data. This would enable schools to prepare young people not just for a generic labour market, but for the specific jobs that are in demand locally.
Having local employer governors would help to build strong links between schools and local employers – both large and small – and potentially also local Local Enterprise Partnerships and city or regional development strategies.
Recent studies from the Confederation of British Industry and other employer bodies suggest that employers are willing to be more involved, but struggle to know how to approach schools, or do not have the staff, time or expertise to do so on a school-by-school basis. Teachers would benefit from having local employer governors providing localised knowledge about jobs, traineeships and apprenticeships, which would be in addition to the more traditional post-16 education that they are typically more familiar with. Young people would benefit from both more and earlier employer engagement and up-to-date information about career opportunities and the qualifications, skills and experiences they’ll need to compete in the labour market.