We know that there are obstacles for young people entering technical and vocational courses. Having spent the past few years working with governments around the world to improve skills and employment systems, I know that if we are to break down these barriers, we need to do two things, recognize the complexity of the issue and agree to a common understanding of what is happening locally and nationally.
The mission of Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) is to help every young person find their best next step. We do this through a locally tailored national framework to reach and meet the needs of schools, colleges, businesses and technical education providers. Our ability to bring these players together puts us in a position to begin to break down the complexity, build consensus and common understanding to unravel and overcome the conundrum of ATE transitions.
Over the next few months, we will bring together experts from business, education, local government, careers and young people themselves through a number of our locally led but supported Careers Hubs and nationally connected.
We do things right when it comes to technical learning and teaching
I believe that when it comes to learning and technical education in this country, we are successful in many ways. But sometimes what’s right and what works is hard to sort out.
A lot of things have to line up before someone goes down a technical or career path. You need local labor market demand, employers offering the right opportunities, sufficient training provision close to learners, good vocational training, accessible information on available options, candidates with the right skills and that parents, guardians and peers support learners who take these pathways .
We have all of these things in England, but not everywhere and not evenly distributed.
A common understanding
Ask different people what is right or wrong with the system and you will get different answers. For some, it is that young people are unaware of learning, although DfE research has shown that at the end of the last academic year, Years 9 and 10 have almost as strong awareness of learning than A-Levels. For others, it is that employers are not willing enough to offer apprenticeships – especially for young people – but housing starts are up 9% this year and 20% for 16-18 year olds.
When there is so much to analyze and understand, it is all too easy to generalize and prescribe solutions that do not address the root causes of the problem.
But, we can begin to come to a common understanding of what is right and wrong with the system by bringing actors together at the grassroots level, having conversations and building consensus on what is working and what is not. must change.
A single conversation in action
Through every conversation, using frontline data and information, all parties can agree on an objective understanding of what is holding back the adoption of technical and professional pathways at the local level. Is it a lack of apprenticeships, a lack of access to training opportunities, or a lack of interest or aspiration among young people to take these paths?
By understanding the picture at the local level, it is possible to target action where the evidence shows it, and local actors agree that it is most needed.
A group of experts in a field may identify and agree that it has a high number of apprenticeship and T-level vacancies and learners who have the skills to access them, but these learners have a low understanding of these options and the different paths open to them.
This community can then collectively agree to make it a priority and decide to focus on supporting new vendor access requirements. They can learn from other areas that identify this as a strength and track the effect of the collective action they have chosen. And if successful, they can share this idea with other regions facing the same challenge.
Local conversations leading to a national image
Through these different local conversations, we can aggregate the information into a comprehensive national picture. By understanding the persistent problems across geographic, economic and demographic factors, we can identify the challenges that require national solutions.
This, combined with the rich sources of data and information that already exist, such as the Employer Skills Survey, Local Skills Dashboard, Working Futures, DfE Data, Compass and the Future Skills Questionnaire, brings us closer to this common understanding.
Summon and mobilize expertise
In addition to having this understanding shared locally and nationally, we can use the connecting power of Careers Hubs to bring together collective knowledge and best practices from different career systems to create lasting change. If one area is struggling with the quality of encounters between providers and young people, but we know good policy and practice exists elsewhere, we can bring people and data together to connect what is working with what needs to be done. function.
A shared understanding leading to meaningful change
Strong, broad analysis and strong collaboration to ensure we are tackling the right issues, involving the right partners and the right initiatives, can get things done and bring lasting change.
There is a real enthusiasm, dedication and expertise in this country to accompany young people towards professional paths. By working from a common starting point and shared understanding, we can channel it into real and meaningful change. And together, let’s recognize and extend success by helping young people do their best and employers find the skills they need.
Andy Hall is the Senior Director of Technical Education and Skills at Careers and Enterprise Company. Andy is responsible for coordinating CEC’s education and technical skills strategy. Andy previously worked for the British Council, leading research, policy dialogue and technical assistance to help governments around the world improve their TVET systems, and for WorldSkills UK, leading the coordination of the national competitions programme.
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