2021 Trends in Careers Education: a reflection

On Wednesday we got an early Christmas gift from the good people over at The Careers and Enterprise Company, the 2021 Trends in Careers Education. What a lovely gift it was to receive, so much positive news to digest at a time where, let’s face it, we’re all crawling to the finish line of a long hard Autumn term. The report itself is based on data reported from 3893 schools and colleges (about 78%) and also wider published research. We tweeted our initial and brief thoughts yesterday morning, which you can read below. This piece expands our thinking in more detail, but we’re really keen to hear what you think of the report. Please do leave a comment below the line letting us know your thoughts.


Trend 1 – Careers education became more prominent in the curriculum last year

We know that the strength of a schools/college careers programme is dependant on it being evidenced across the institution and specifically linked into curriculum areas. The data shows strong trends towards the explicit inclusion of careers in STEM subjects – we don’t have the evidence of it’s links into other subject areas as this isn’t currently captured in Compass returns.

What is concerning is that there remains a disparity between schools and that of colleges and SEND schools. More work should be done to work with colleagues in Further Education & SEND to see what learning they can take in bridging this gap.

When teaching maths, 64% of schools made links between certain subject content and the world of work for most students. A similar proportion (65%) taught English in this way. This is an increase of 44% and 45% since 2019 (Chart 1).

The proportion of schools teaching careers through aspects of science increased by a third (32%) over the past two years. 70% of schools ensured that most students accessed this type of learning. PSHE continued to be the subject most closely related to careers learning (and was up by 16% over the past two years).

Trend 2 – Innovation helped young people to engage with employers despite the impact of the pandemic

If we look for the silver lining from the stresses of the pandemic it would undoubtedly be the way that careers educators have embraced technology to deliver our vital provision. We’ve been saying for while that just because something has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean it should always be done that way. It’s great to see that this blended approach should continue beyond these troubled times.

One caveat with all this should be that we shouldn’t be tempted to do away with traditional methods of delivery for any other reasons other than effectiveness. If the traditional method of delivery is more meaningful but more expensive then we stick with tradition. For instance, current technologies surrounding virtual/remote Work Experience are just not able to replace the in person delivery…yet!

Trend 3 – There was information about apprenticeships in the education system, but there is work to do to convert interest to uptake

It’s fantastic to see that 84% of schools reported that most of their students received information about the full range of apprenticeships. This marks an increase from 80% in 2019 (and 73% in 2018) – an 11% increase in 3 years is nothing but positive. There is a different ask for colleges on the Compass tool. It asks about meaningful encounters with a range of apprenticeship providers, rather than providing information about apprenticeships. The proportion of colleges reporting that most of their students encountered a range of providers in 2021 was 47% (up from 34% in 2019). Again, this is really positive data coming through.

However, there is a difference between being given the information and then young people acting on it. The issue with apprenticeships remains a stubborn one and again leaves the question about what can be done to address it. One suggestion would be that there is more collaboration with The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education in how we can make the application process easier for young people as well as providing greater access to quality apprenticeships.

Trend 4 – There was an increased focus on individuals and their context through personal guidance, links to the labour market and digital tools

Personal Guidance – Great to such increases in the delivery of Personal Guidance in schools. Some 80% of secondary schools reported providing most of their students with an interview with a qualified careers adviser by the end of Year 11 (up from 74% in 2019) and 58% provided students with a further interview by the end of Year 13 (up from 50% in 2019)

The picture is less positive in colleges and SEND provision. Only 65% of special schools ensured that most students had an interview by the end of Year 11. Whereas in colleges 95% of students were offered an interview but just 33% took up this offer. This is really stark data and prompts further questions to be asked as to why this is the case. One reason offered on the report is that college based students are perhaps more clear on their intended destinations post college.

LMI – Schools and colleges reported sharing more information about the labour market with students. The report highlighted that there was a 24% increase in the proportion of schools reporting that they provided labour market information to
most of their students, with 73% of schools and 77% of colleges reporting this in 2021 (compared with 59% and 63% in 2019).

The feedback that we’re getting from our community is that information is being provided to young people but that more support is needed for careers leaders in finding it and using it effectively. This information is nice to have for students but it would be interesting to see what the impact of the information is having on the decisions that young people make from it.

Digital Tools – No surprises here that the use of digital tools in delivery have increased. As more excellent applications or plug-ins like Compass+ are developed the more likely schools and colleges will make use of them. We know that cost is a factor in the use of such tools but we know that often effectiveness and impact of the application often is a bigger factor in it’s purchase or implementation.

Trend 5 – Training and local collaboration led to increased progress

The more networked and well trained Careers Leaders are the better the outcomes for students. We cover both these areas, we’re a network of trained careers educators passing on support to other careers educators – the more linked and supportive we are, the better it is for the sector.

97% of Careers Leaders finished the training with actions to implement in their school or college and, 6-24 months later, 80% of survey respondents had updated their strategic careers programme as a result of the training.

Trend 6 – New evidence shows that improving careers provision leads to better outcomes for young people

This is the standout trend in the report and provides that extra element if needing to prove or sell the impact of the work we’re doing. We always knew that this data would be forthcoming but much of the impact our work is longitudinal so it’s great to see it all bare fruit.

Based on data from about 2,400 schools, each benchmark achieved by a school increased the likelihood of a student being EET. This amounted to a 9.7% decline in the proportion of students who are not in sustained education, employment or training post-16 if schools meet all eight Gatsby Benchmarks compared to schools achieving none.

The decline was twice as great at 20.1% in the schools with the most disadvantaged students.


Social Media Reaction and Comment

Oli de Botton, CEO The Careers and Enterprise Company

Amazing Apprenticeships

Bulb Global

Olly Newton, The Edge Foundation

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