Business groups support proposal making access to careers guidance a legal requirement

CIPD and others say amendment to the Skills Bill will help ‘close the gap’ in vocational and work-based learning for students

The CIPD is among a number of business groups backing a proposal that would make it a legal requirement for students to have access to vocational careers advice in schools.

The organisations are supporting an amendment to the Skills Bill that would give students aged 13 to 18 access to three meetings a year with providers of vocational opportunities to talk about non-academic options such as technical qualifications and apprenticeships.

Proponents of the amendment have said making young people more aware of the technical and vocational learning opportunities available to them is a vital part of closing the UK’s skills gap.

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“It is critical that more young people receive advice and guidance on alternative pathways to higher education, such as apprenticeships, while in the education system,” said Lizzie Crowley, senior skills adviser at the CIPD, who supports the amendment.

“As our research clearly demonstrates, the current system is failing to support young people make informed choices about their futures, restricting their options to get in, and get on, in the labour market.

“It’s time the government stepped up and put in place additional measures to ensure that young people understand the range of vocational alternatives available,” said Crowley.

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The amendment to the Skills Bill, being proposed by the Conservative MP Robert Halfon, would see an existing provision in the 2017 Technical and Further Education Act become legally enforceable.

The provision, commonly known as the Baker Clause, is meant to give technical colleges and other training providers access to students from Year 8 through to Year 13 to discuss non-academic routes to work. However, critics have argued that compliance with this clause is currently far too low.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, said the proposal to strengthen the Baker Clause could “help ensure young people are more aware of the full range of options open to them, including excellent vocational education and apprenticeships”. 

“I hope this could help close the gaps we have in participation in education, particularly technical education and work-based learning, compared to other countries as well as helping employers better meet their skills needs,” said Evans.

The amendment is also supported by Laura-Jane Rawlings, chief executive officer of Youth Employment UK. While access to information about opportunities such as apprenticeships was improving, Rawlings said there were still “gaps in provisions”.

“Young people shared with us that they would like to hear more about the different routes and options. This is why we are very supportive of the addition to the Baker Clause,” she said.

“It is important to note that many schools and colleges are working hard to meet the needs of their students… But there is more that can be done and this additional clause will support greater activity,” said Rawling, adding that the next challenge would be ensuring this activity was “meaningful, engaging and relevant”.

CIPD research published earlier this year found only a fifth (21 per cent) of 18 to 21-year-olds rated the quality of careers advice they received as high.

The poll of 2,000 young people aged between 18 and 30, found that half (52 per cent) would have considered an apprenticeship had it been available in their chosen subject.

However, of those who received careers support from their school or college, just 1 per cent said they received the support they needed to choose an apprenticeship. In comparison, almost three in five (59 per cent) said their school had helped them with their university applications.