The Welsh Government is moving forward with an ambitious programme of education reform, working collaboratively with schools and teachers to deliver on the national mission. More than two hundred pioneer schools across Wales have helped accelerate progress on the new curriculum, designing areas of learning and experience.
Secondary schools, colleges and work-based learning providers have a statutory duty under the Learning and Skills (Wales) Measure 2009 to widen choice and provide learner support services for young people aged 14 to 19. Learner support services include learning coaching, personal support, and careers information and guidance. The report looks at the quality, consistency and impartiality of learner support services provided by schools to pupils before, during and at the end of key stage 4 (Welsh Assembly Government, 2009).
At present, responsibility for the provision of careers information, advice, guidance and education in Wales is shared between schools and Careers Wales, with each having defined roles and responsibilities. Schools provide careers information, careers education and initial advice, and Careers Wales provide an external careers guidance and curriculum support service, funded by government and delivered by professionally qualified staff. Careers Wales seeks to provide leadership across Wales in relation to careers education, information, advice and guidance. In this context it is working on a wide range of developments to improve and enhance the support ultimately offered to young people in Wales.
Professor Graham Donaldson’s independent review of curriculum and assessment arrangements, in Wales, Successful Futures, offers a vision of what successful young people leaving statutory education should look like. The Welsh Government is taking forward the recommendations in Successful Futures, with a new curriculum being developed by teachers and practitioners through a network of Pioneer Schools, supported by stakeholders as part of an all-Wales partnership. The new curriculum will have more emphasis on equipping young people for life and at the heart of this curriculum there will be 4 purposes, one of which is that children and young people should develop as ‘enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work’. The Welsh Government has invited Careers Wales to identify what role it will play in supporting schools to integrate careers education, work related and enterprise activities, in line with ambitions set out in Successful Futures.
Within schools and colleges, Careers Wales applies a Youth Engagement and Progression Framework (YEPF) – a framework intended to reduce the number of young people aged 11 to 25 who are not engaged in education, employment or training (NEET). The framework has 6 elements (Welsh Government, 2013b):
- identifying young people most at risk of disengagement;
- better brokerage and co-ordination of support;
- stronger tracking and transitions of young people through the system;
- ensuring provision meets the needs of young people;
- strengthening employability skills and opportunities for employment;
- greater accountability for better outcomes for young people.
Careers Wales undertakes an annual ‘Careers Check’ of pupils’ aspirations and key findings feed into individual school plans.
In collaboration with Careers Wales, the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD) and the Administrative Data Research Centre Wales (ADR Wales) at Cardiff University are exploring the notion that receiving useful and timely careers support actually improves individuals’ educational and employment experience by undertaking research on the effectiveness of labour market interventions in Wales. This research project will help policy makers and educational researchers understand the learning landscape in Wales and the role of careers information, advice and guidance in supporting post-compulsory education. It responds to the Welsh Government’s objective by highlighting the effectiveness of careers-related interventions offered in Wales.
The research remit is wide. Using various Welsh administrative educational datasets along with anonymised client information held by Careers Wales, the research analyses the take-up and impact of the services provided by Careers Wales and how they support post-compulsory education in Wales. It also examines how the use of administrative data can assist Careers Wales in:
- process and productivity improvements;
- efficient profiling and follow-up of clients;
- the optimal selection and allocation of resources to client services.
The research looks at how a pupil’s journey through education is influenced by their social characteristics and previous educational attainment, while analysing whether receiving careers guidance influences these outcomes favourably. This is the first time the administrative data gathered on the delivery of careers services in Wales is used to explore important issues about educational journey and the career and training decisions learners make when leaving compulsory education. The first aspect of the research explores the question of who receives the services of Careers Wales and how the services are delivered in Welsh schools.
The Careers Wales new Education Business Exchange service provides information to schools about relevant work experience opportunities and facilitate industry engagement in schools. The outcomes refer to young people who are able to develop work skills ready for employment. The pilot in two Valleys local authorities will be rolled out to all other mainstream schools.
In 2017, Careers Wales had a set target of engaging 10,000 employers on their new ‘Education Business Exchange database’ so that schools and young people can see the opportunities available to them from local employers and activities and interactions between schools and employers can be better facilitated and managed. This service was rolled out first in the Heads of the Valleys with progress reported to the Valleys Task Force. The Education Business Exchange is based on a comprehensive ‘data set’ containing details relating to employers’ willingness and ability to support the curriculum with activities including:
- visits to industry which are curriculum focused;
- work or business simulations involving workshops with employers either actually or online;
- work related community participation through volunteering (30 hours required for WBQ core);
- industry days/Careers fairs with different career options or targeted careers;
- extended work placements for identified learners.
This approach reflects the Welsh Government policy to facilitate improved interactions with employers beyond the traditional 5/10-day block of work experience. The design of the service has taken into account feedback from employers across Wales.
Careers Wales is also involved in national, regional and local initiatives such as:
- Youth Engagement and Progression Framework;
- Child Poverty Strategy for Wales;
- STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths);
- Careers and the World of Work (CWW) Curriculum;
- Skills and Training Initiatives e.g. AMS (Apprenticeship Matching Service);
- Welsh Government Employability Plan, Targets and Technical Notes;
- Welsh Government Employability Plan: Progress Report 2018.
The overriding aim of Careers Wales is to achieve high quality outcomes for individuals in terms of effective career planning, successful transition into further education, employment or training and sustained progression. These outcomes will have a demonstrable impact e.g. fewer young people disengaged from employment, education and training. Careers Wales is expected to produce a high quality and comprehensive business plan in response to an annual remit letter from Ministers.
Importance of careers guidance in schools
Careers guidance as an effective labour market intervention entails that the careers-related services should be widely accessible, particularly to those who are in the greatest need, adequate and provided at the key transition points in an individual’s educational and employment journey (Cedefop, 2008). Receiving appropriate careers support within schools sets the scene for achieving the long-term goal of reducing the number of young people who fall outside of the education, training or employment system and from becoming ‘NEETS’ by informing individuals from their first transition point about various educational and vocational possibilities for success in the labour market. Offering focused careers services to students who are in their final years of school or college has been deemed a useful way of influencing aspirations of learners positively (Briggs et al. 2012).
Additionally, literature about post-compulsory education highlights that many young people leaving compulsory education make educational and vocational choices which they never considered right for them due to certain constraints (Davies & Elias, 2003), and there are known disparities in access to careers services for pupils from the outset based on their social characteristics, particularly educational attainment, gender and ethnicity.
The provision of careers guidance in Welsh schools
An independent research study (Davies and Yunas, 2017) investigated whether pupils within schools in Wales receive careers-related services and if the services are accessible to those pupils who are most in need. The study used the data held in the Welsh National Pupil Database (NPD) for academic years 10 and 11 between 2012-2015 and client information held by Careers Wales (CW). The NPD contains information on the characteristics of children in schools and their educational progress. Merging the two datasets allowed to examine the incidence and nature of careers guidance received by children and how their characteristics effect the likelihood of receiving careers-related services, highlighting factors associated with the probability of receiving careers advice within schools. The study draws several interesting conclusions (2017: 21-22):
Analysis of administrative data reveals that in Wales approximately 85% of pupils received some form of contact with the Careers Wales during Year 10, falling to just over half during Year 11. The final year of compulsory education may therefore not provide a ‘complete’ picture as to who is in receipt of careers guidance. In terms of equality of access to careers guidance, analysis demonstrates that whilst the provision of careers guidance in Welsh schools by Careers Wales is not gendered, certain minority ethnic groups are less likely to benefit from these services. Thirdly, the analysis confirms empirically that Careers Wales is fulfilling its remit of providing increased levels of support to those with Special Educational Needs. Finally, in terms of supporting those pupils with the greatest needs, the research demonstrates that pupils who are eligible for free school meals (eFSM), have lower levels of academic attainment and higher levels of absenteeism are each more likely to be in receipt of support from Careers Wales.
ADR Wales. https://esrc.ukri.org/research/our-research/administrative-data-research-wales-adr-wales/
Briggs, A.; Clark, J.; Hall, I. (2012). Building bridges: Understanding student transition to university. Quality in Higher Education, 18(1), 3-21. https://doi.org/10.1080/13538322.2011.614468
Careers Wales (2018b). Education Business Exchange database. https://www.careerswales.com/en/employers/working-with-schools-and-colleges/education-business-exchange/
Careers Wales. https://www.careerswales.com/en/
Cedefop (2008). Labour market information and guidance. Cedefop research paper; No. 55. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/5555_en.pdf
Davies, R.; Elias, P. (2003). Dropping Out: A study of early leavers from higher education. Department for Education and Skills; Research report RR386. https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/ier/publications/2002/davies_and_elias_2002_rr386.pdf
Davies, R.; Yunus, S. (2017). Addressing inequality: The provision of career guidance in Welsh Schools. https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/polopoly_fs/1.797626!/file/E3_Davies.pdf
Donaldson, G. (2015). Successful Futures: Looking at the Curriculum and Assessment Arrangements in Wales. https://beta.gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2018-03/succesful-futures-a-summary-of-professor-graham-donaldsons-report.pdf
Estyn (2017). Careers: the implementation of the careers and world of work framework in secondary schools. https://www.estyn.gov.wales/thematic-reports/careers-implementation-careers-and-world-work-framework-secondary-schools
Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD). https://wiserd.ac.uk/
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Welsh Government (2012). STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths): Guidance for schools and colleges in Wales. https://beta.gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2018-02/science-technology-engineering-and-mathematics-stem-guidance-for-schools-and-colleges-in-wales.pdf
Welsh Government (2013a). Careers and the World of Work (CWW) Curriculum. https://learning.gov.wales/resources/browse-all/careers-world-of-work/?lang=en
Welsh Government (2013b). Youth Engagement and Progression Framework. Implementation Plan. Executive Summary. https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2018-02/executive-summary.pdf
Welsh Government (2017a). Aligning the Apprenticeship model to the needs of the Welsh economy. https://beta.gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2018-03/aligning-the-apprenticeship-model-to-the-needs-of-the-welsh-economy.pdf
Welsh Government (2017b). Education in Wales: Our national mission. Action Plan 2017-2021. https://beta.gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2018-03/education-in-wales-our-national-mission.pdf
Welsh Government (2018a). Child Poverty Strategy for Wales. https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2019-06/child-poverty-strategy-for-wales-easy-read-version.pdf
Welsh Government (2018b). Employability Plan, Targets and Technical Notes. https://beta.gov.wales/employability-plan
Welsh Government (2018c). Employability Plan: Progress Report 2018. https://beta.gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2018-09/employability-plan-progress-report-2018.pdf.
Welsh Government (2018i). Remit to Careers Wales. https://gov.wales/about/cabinet/decisions/2018/jan-mar/education/em4086/?lang=en