Inquiry into Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance in Northern Ireland

Committee: Employment and Learning

Session: 2013/2014

Date: Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Reference: NIA 141/11-15

ISBN: Only available online

Mandate Report Number: Mandate 2011/15 First Report

Together with the Minutes of Proceedings of the Committee relating to the Report, Minutes of Evidence, and Written Submissions

Powers

The Committee for Employment and Learning is a Statutory Departmental Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Belfast Agreement, Section 29 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and under Standing Orders 48 of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Committee has a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role with respect to the Department for Employment and Learning and has a role in the initiation of legislation.

The Committee has power to:

  • Consider and advise on Departmental budgets and annual plans in the context of the overall budget allocation;
  • Approve relevant secondary legislation and take the Committee stage of relevant primary legislation;
  • Call for persons and papers;
  • Initiate inquiries and make reports; and
  • Consider and advise on matters brought to the Committee by the Minister for Employment and Learning.

Executive Summary and Summary of Recommendations are available below. Download the full report here.

 

Executive Summary

The initiation of this Inquiry came from the Committee for Employment and Learning’s concerns regarding the structure and effectiveness of Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (CEIAG) in Northern Ireland. These concerns were triggered by briefings from a number of organisations which highlighted issues with how CEIAG is taught in schools and colleges.

The Committee also had concerns regarding the perceived lack of a co-ordinated approach to careers and its place in the wider economic development of Northern Ireland and questioned how it can be that, simultaneously, there can exist, both a large number of young people leaving education with little prospect of employment alongside claims from industry that Northern Ireland is facing a skills shortage which is jeopardising future growth.

At its meeting on 4 July 2012, the Committee agreed the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry and wrote to a list of 65 Key Stakeholders requesting written evidence to the Committee. In all 41 organisations provided written submissions to the Inquiry and 28 provided oral evidence.

In addition to the written and oral evidence, the Committee undertook a number of study visits to learn of the practical application of careers education, information, advice and guidance and supplemented this with a large scale survey of; those in year 12 in schools, in colleges, at university, and those young people that have left school and are not in education or employment. The Committee was overwhelmed by the response to this survey which reached 8428 responses across all four groups and the Committee is incredibly grateful to those who took the time to respond.

In acknowledgement that responsibility of CEIAG lies jointly between the Department for Employment and Learning and the Department of Education the Committee made all the papers relevant to the Inquiry available to the Committee for Education and began the Inquiry with a joint briefing from both the Departments.

The Department for Employment and Learning, through partnership agreements between its Careers Service and post primary schools, supports the schools’ careers education programmes by providing impartial careers information, advice and guidance while the Department of Education takes the lead in relation to the delivery of CEIAG in schools. In relation to Further Education the Colleges have individual responsibility for the allocation of resources and the integration of CEIAG in the curriculum. The Universities in Northern Ireland are individually responsible for the delivery of CEIAG.

Of particular note to the Committee was that there is a wide range of organisations involved in the provision of CEIAG; from schools, businesses, the Careers Service and the different Sector Skills bodies etc. and that many of these organisations are funded by Government and sometimes offer conflicting information.

During its inquiry, the Committee was provided with written and oral evidence from the various organisations that manage and deliver careers education, information, advice and guidance in Northern Ireland including from the two Departments with dual responsibility; the Department for Employment and Learning; and the Department of Education. Set out in Section 2 of the report is an outline of the various policies, strategies, structures and delivery mechanisms for careers provision.

The evidence considered by the Committee has provided it with a range of views on CEIAG which can be categorised into a number of main themes. Firstly, a range of criticisms of Careers delivery, secondly, ideas and recommendations for how to make the system better, thirdly, a number of organisations have signposted the inquiry to models of good practice, and fourthly, finance and resource issues. Each of these areas is dealt with in turn in Section 3 of the report.

In conclusion, there is much to praise the CEIAG in Northern Ireland for; the individual teachers and advisors who work tirelessly to advance the horizons, aspirations and prospects of those looking for help; the schools, colleges and universities that have widened out their visions for those who come through their doors, beyond the passing of the next exam to moulding individuals who are work ready, who have a focus and a confidence for where they see themselves in 5 and 10 years.

However throughout this report there is an abundance of information pointing to:

  • both systemic and specific examples of poor careers provision;
  • evidence of inconsistency in careers provision across Northern Ireland;
  • evidence of a lack of information and that what information is available is difficult to digest;
  • suggestions that schools and colleges, to protect their own enrolments, do not advise students of the full range of options available to them; and
  • a lack of joined up thinking across the education and employment sectors to have a workforce ready for the economy of tomorrow.

Throughout the report a range of recommendations have been made relating to the evidence received by the Committee. These recommendations are listed below, not in the order they are found in the body of the report but in categories of related recommendations on specific areas and the page numbers have been included to reference them to where they fall in the report.

The Committee also supports the recommendations made by the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure in its report for its Inquiry on Maximising the Potential of the Creative Industries which relate to Careers Provision.

Summary of Recommendations

A Statutory Duty – Developing a Consistent Approach

Recommendation 1

The Committee recommends that the Department for Employment and Learning and the Department of Education examine the benefits of introducing an adequately resourced statutory mechanism for ensuring a consistency of approach and high standards of careers service across all schools, colleges and universities in Northern Ireland. This may be a statutory duty on the Departments to develop and implement guidance which they then monitor or, as is being developed in England, that the statutory duty is on the institutions to deliver impartial and independent advice. DEL and DE should consider the H.M. Inspectorate (Ofsted) report, Going in the right direction? (September 2013), evaluating the legally responsibility for securing access to independent and impartial careers guidance for students introduced in England. (page 18 of the report)

Recommendation 2

The Committee recommends that the Department for Employment and Learning and the Department of Education ensure that the concept, envisaged in the Entitlement Framework, to improve the choices open to students, are adequately explained and implemented. The Committee believes that a statutory footing for independent and impartial Careers Delivery would ameliorate this issue. (page 18 of the report)

The Role of the Curriculum and examples of Good Practice

Recommendation 3

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education should add Careers into the curriculum as a compulsory subject. (page 20 of the report)

Recommendation 4

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education considers what more can be done to ensure that the curriculum in year 8, 9 and 10 nurtures children’s career insights and raises aspirations. (page 20 of the report)

Recommendation 5

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education looks to develop the examples of good practice in project work and personal development portfolios that it has considered as part of the Inquiry. These approaches, which aim to maximise each student’s potential, should be integrated into the curriculum across all schools and that the Department for Employment and Learning too ensures that all the courses taught by Colleges and Universities integrate this approach. (page 20 of the report)

Recommendation 6

The Committee recommends that the Department for Employment and Learning and the Department of Education look at the examples of good practice from other regions and countries and which have been highlighted in the evidence to the Inquiry such as in Finland where guidance is a compulsory subject within the curriculum. (page 24 of the report)

Overcoming Barriers

Recommendation 7

The Committee recommends that the Department for Employment and Learning includes in its on-going Review of Economic Inactivity, the role the Careers Service should play in signposting those economically inactive into training, education and ultimately employment. (page 26 of the report)

Recommendation 8

The Committee recommends that the Department for Employment and Learning ensures that practical financial advice is provided to potential and current students to ensure that the door to further education and higher education is not closed to individuals due to its cost. (page 27 of the report)

Recommendation 9

The Committee recommends that the Department for Employment and Learning develops an integrated network of support for those with learning difficulties to engage in work, whether through grant schemes for employers or through mentoring schemes and that the Department should investigate best practice in other jurisdictions. (page 28 of the report)

Recommendation 10

The Committee recommends that the Department for Employment and Learning and Department of Education develop a strategy to identify and address the barriers facing female students going into STEM based careers. (page 28 of the report)

Promoting STEM Subjects

Recommendation 11

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education considers expanding the approach it currently takes with STEM to provide more career insights and exposure to the world of business and entrepreneurship. (page 32 of the report)

Recommendation 12

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education reviews its programmes to improve the uptake in STEM subjects and to provide evidence of its success. (page 32 of the report)

Recommendation 13

The Committee recommends that the Department for Employment and Learning and the Department of Education must develop outcome measures to enable the Assembly and the wider public to evaluate success in promoting work relevant areas, particularly STEM, and to provide a level of assurance that the whole education system is responsive to the needs of the Economy. (page 33 of the report)

Recommendation 14

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education explores ways that all schools are adequately resourced with the necessary equipment to promote and facilitate the teaching of STEM subjects. (page 33 of the report)

Providing information

Recommendation 15

The Committee recommends that the Department for Employment and Learning establishes an inclusive and fit for purpose Careers website such as the My World of Work site in Scotland or the Careers Portal in the Republic of Ireland. (page 36 of the report)

Recommendation 16

The Committee recommends that the Department for Employment and Learning and the Department of Education as part of its new careers strategy develops an action plan for providing information for parents and to engage with parents to ensure that the advice and encouragement they offer their children is informed and that the Department for Employment and Learning and the Department of Education develop a parents portal on the Careers Service website. (page 36 of the report)

Recommendation 17

The Committee recommends that the Department for Employment and Learning increases its efforts to make Labour Market Information more accessible and develops a more joined-up approach to information sharing between itself and other key stakeholders to enable it to collate, analyse and disseminate quality information. (page 39 of the report)

Engaging with Business

Recommendation 18

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education with the assistance of the Department for Employment and Learning reviews the resources provided to schools for delivering work experience, explores the feasibility of all post-primary schools delivering work experience for their students and evaluates the quality of these placements. (page 41 of the report)

Recommendation 19

The Committee recommends that the Department for Employment and Learning and the Department of Education, in developing better engagement between schools and businesses seek to introduce in schools a more consistent approach to promoting, organising and quality assuring work placements for students. (page 42 of the report)

Recommendation 20

The Committee recommends that the Department for Employment and Learning and the Department of Education include in their planned Careers Strategy how engagement in career-related learning between schools and businesses can be improved. (page 43 of the report)

Recommendation 21

The Committee recommends that the Department for Employment and Learning and the Department of Education should evaluate the good practise in the partnership models between schools and the private sector and the Voluntary/Community sectors for their feasibility in emphasising a more formal structure for partnerships between schools and businesses in Northern Ireland. (page 43 of the report)

Improving Advice

Recommendation 22

The Committee recommends that the Department for Employment and Learning works with haste to develop and introduce more qualifications in careers education, information, advice and guidance to Northern Ireland and that the Department of Education puts more emphasis on the delivery of careers education, information, advice and guidance to increase the number of experienced and qualified careers staff. (page 46 of the report)

Recommendation 23

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education ensures that the 4 Continuous Professional Development modules that it is currently developing responds to criticisms raised by those who gave evidence to the Inquiry and that these modules are implemented as soon as possible. (page 46 of the report)

Recommendation 24

The Committee recommends that subject teachers are provided with specific Continuous Professional Development to ensure that they are aware of the realistic opportunities available to students in their subject area. The Committee believes that this could be facilitated and enhanced by better partnerships with employers. (page 46 of the report)

Recommendation 25

The Committee recommends that the Department for Employment and Learning and the Department of Education consider the suggestions and recommendations made by the organisations that provided evidence to the Inquiry when reviewing the current strategy, Preparing for Success. (page 49 of the report)

 

Download the full report here.

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