Moments of Choice, a response to the critics

Moments of Choice, a response to the critics

Sunday 25th September 2016

This week in Schools Week, there was an article with the headline* "£70m government funded careers company insists that it has achieved a lot"* The article starts with the premise that the organisation is turning into a quango and that there are allegations over poor use of public funds. The article is not forthcoming as to where these allegations came from but homed in on the Moments of Choice report issued recently.

The article went on to quote Gerrard Liston, an employability consultant who believes that the money should be put into training teachers to deliver careers guidance. I can see teacher's dismay at this idea. How many other things must teacher's become? Immigration officials. safeguarding & social workers, Police officers and now careers advisers. Let's make one thing abundantly clear. Professional careers advisers are qualified to post graduate level and undergo extensive CPD to enable them to know an incredible amount about the thousands of possible job opportunities available, not just in this country but throughout the world. They also know huge amounts about the different courses at universities and apprenticeship and school leaver opportunities. Try delivering that knowledge on a short course Mr Liston.

Deirdre Hughes the former head of the National Careers Council does highlight some of the good work done by the CEC but thankfully, puts forward the case for a proper careers guidance profession.

The main finding of the report makes perfect sense to me.

Most young people are not engaged in thinking about different career options because the task appears too difficult. They are confronted with lots of information and little way to make sense of it, which leads to 'choice overload'.

In the article. Claudia Harris, the CEO of the CEC says "the "huge amount of data" provided to young people about careers made it "rational for them to turn off" In essence she can be interpreted as saying that the purpose for which the CEC was founded is, in essence, causing a problem.

For some time now, I've been saying that our young people are bewildered by the choice presented to them via all the various organisations and employer engagement activities. So I welcome the CEC report as it adds weight to my argument. The way forward, in my opinion, is twofold.

1) Develop a careers education curriculum that develops both career management and information handling skills in young people. There are not very many careers education specialists in the UK. Training in careers pedagogy is not common. There are some schemes, The CDI lists qualifications that are available on it's website. I studied at Cambridge University and hold a Post Graduate Certificate in Careers education. In addition, TeachFirst are training TF alumni in managing careers education. However, the Community of Interest in Careers Education which is part of the CDI has published a Framework for Careers, Employability & Enterprise. which can be downloaded here and forms a good basis for school careers work.

2) Provide access to careers guidance delivered by somebody qualified to level 6 (post graduate) level. You cannot call a mentoring session or a chat with a teacher or librarian a careers guidance interview. It's not! You wouldn't call a chat about your bowel habits with the company first aider a medical consultation would you? The CDI provides a nice overview of qualifications for careers professionals here.

I have no idea how the CEC will move forward. I know the Education & Skills sub committee recommended that the CEC became involved in delivering guidance. In my opinion the Careers & Enterprise Company is not perfect. No organisation is. What it is doing is trying to make sense of the post annihilation of careers landscape left after Gove closed down Connexions and left a vacuum where careers advice was.

The schools week article can be found here


I have been contacted by Gerard Liston and I'm happy to publish this clarification of his comments.

The reporter unfortunately tried to concisely paraphrase my description of the Unlocking Talent & Potential programme, which came out as '... training teachers to deliver careers guidance in classrooms'. This is definitely neither what I believe nor what we promote.

Our aim is to build the capacity of teaching staff to bring their subjects to life in partnership with employers (i.e. Gatsby benchmark #4), which is something rather different. And I also agree with Deirdre's sentiments about independent, impartial careers advice (i.e. Gatsby benchmark #8).

But, I do own the criticism about CEC; criticisms that I have voiced to some other their senior leaders, so shouldn't have come as a surprise. To summarise simply:

Lack of progress:

Nothing on the CEC website about impact of activities on young people or measures of success and accountability

Lack of sustainability:

EA networks co-ordinated by ECs, currently funded by CEC .... and then? (Who remembers the 'Schools' Enterprise Education Network'?)


Investment that perpetuates dependency on providers or targeting NEETS vs inclusive, embedded and involving true partnership with business partners.

The report Moments of Choice has been researched, compiled and published by the Careers & Enterprise Company. It examines data drawn from 2 major areas.

1) Literature reviews, in depth interviews with 35 young people, round table discussions with teachers, employers and career guidance professionals; and co-design workshops with groups of young people to understand how they would like to approach career choices.

2) A review of the current range of products available to support young people with their career choices. This included interviews with organisations to understand their product development plans and to collect views on the most useful additional information that they would want to provide.