£70m government-funded careers company insists it has ‘achieved a lot’


The Careers and Enterprise Company will do more to support and train teachers, its chief executive has said after criticism of the organisation’s use of public money.

Claudia Harris has denied that the CEC, which now has 25 full-time staff and 13 contractors, is turning into a quango, and insists it has “achieved a lot” in its first year.

Announced by former education secretary Nicky Morgan in late 2014, the company has been in operation since June last year, employing 75 regional “enterprise co-ordinators” to work with schools on careers guidance.

It has also launched a mentoring programme and activities with business volunteers in careers’ “cold spots” across England.

But Gerard Liston, an enterprise and employability consultant, told Schools Week he had “real concerns” about a “lack of progress and lack of sustainability” at the CEC, and said its funding – £70 million over this parliament – would be better spent on training teachers to deliver guidance in classrooms.

“There is a real limit to what can be achieved in a school through one day a month with a volunteer from business,” he said, adding that he was disappointed with the “lack of results and the superficial nature” of projects from CEC so far.

Moments of Choice, a key research piece for the organisation, found a variation in the understanding of study and career options among young people, but was based on interviews with just 35 young people.

Deirdre Hughes (pictured), former chair of the National Careers Council, said the report repeated findings already well-known in the sector.

“It’s great that they want to be known as an evidence-based organisation,” she said. “But we don’t need to have a quango producing what’s there already. What we need is to get independent, impartial careers advice back into communities.

What we need is to get independent, impartial careers advice back into communities

“I would really, really like to see this funding making a difference at grassroots level.”

Harris denied the research was old news, claiming it had looked further into the “science of how people make decisions”.

She said one of the key findings was that the “huge amount of data” provided to young people about careers made it “rational for them to turn off”, something that other research had failed to pick up.

Harris agreed the CEC needed to do more with teachers, and said it was “in the early stages of exploring” what it could do to help classroom staff and how its existing work could be “mapped into the curriculum”.

But she said its focus had to be wider than just schools.

“The problem here is a system failure, and the new insight is that you can’t solve this in schools alone, because the research is so clear that one of the key levers is helping kids to go to see things outside schools.”

She added that the Gatsby Foundation was running a pilot in which it trained teachers in its “benchmarks for good careers guidance” and tested their knowledge against that of the CEC’s enterprise coordinators.

Teach First was also working in 15 schools to train middle leaders on the Gatsby benchmarks, and would be extending the pilot into 45 schools next year.


Correction: Schools Week has removed the word “careers” from the sentence, attributed to Gerard Liston, that read ‘funding … would be better spent on training teachers to deliver guidance in classrooms’, to ensure the statement reflected Liston’s views.

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  1. Yet again, teachers are being expected to deliver on career guidance! The title Enterprise Co-ordinators suggests a specialism on enterprise not career guidance. There is little or no reference made by the CEC to the professionally trained careers advisers working across the country with young people (and adults). Scarce resources need to be better prioritised.

    • Michael Gove had a visceral hatred of careers advisers, David Laws said in his book ‘Coalition’. In 2013, Gove told the Education Select Committee that careers advisers were ‘self-interested’ parties who spouted ‘garbage’. His attitude contributed to the destruction of impartial careers advice. Instead, we have a quango which apparently believes the best careers advice comes from employers. But no employer can be expected to know about the full range of careers, higher education, vocational training etc.

  2. Self-sustaining solutions – involving classroom teachers – can include, ‘… an integrated approach, which incorporates employer input into existing study modules. It helps teachers bring traditional curriculum subjects alive and makes learning more relevant to what’s needed in today’s and tomorrow’s world’
    Phil Crompton, Executive Principal, Trent Academies Group (SecEd, May 2016)

  3. It’s interesting that the Gatsby benchmarks for good career guidance are mentioned. Benchmark 4 proposes that ‘All teachers should link curriculum learning with careers’ and Benchmark 8 proposes that ‘Every pupil should have opportunities for guidance interviews with a careers adviser’. I completely agree with both – but neither have yet been part of package backed by the government investment announced two years ago.

  4. Peter Cobrin

    Never in the field of careers guidance has so much been spent on so few one-to-one interventions — the ones that make a difference. How many employers have visited how many schools? How many sustained programmes of employer support, as against the odd visit have taken place? I have visited some 25 schools in the last six months and not one, repeat not one, has even heard of this organisation.

    And for Janet, although Gove has gone, apparently to re-float the royal yacht Britannia, Nick Gibb is still around.

  5. Totally disagree with Mr Liston’s comments about training teachers to be careers guidance professionals. It shows lack of understanding of the differences between careers education and careers guidance.

    I agree all teachers should have input into the delivery of careers education. There are many ways of doing this. Inviting employers in to talk about how skills are used in the workplace. Setting problems in a workplace situation etc. Careers guidance is a specialised arm of coaching, counselling and allied professions and as such should only be delivered by fully qualified and accredited professionals.

    This article left me so incensed that I had to blog about it.

    • 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

    • Since writing this comment I’ve come to understand that Mr Liston feels that the reporters distilation of this description of the unlocking talent and potential programme, which his company delivers, has been wrongly distilled into the comment about training teachers to be careers advisers. Thanks to Mr Liston for clarifying this

  6. David Martin FIC

    A benefit of the enterprise adviser network stimulated by the CEC “project” is the engagement of experienced employers with the senior management of educational establishments to offer encouragement, advice and support on employability. The big question for me is not “how have we spent the money to date?”, but “how do we ensure sustainability of this important and novel business and education collaboration on an issue (employability) that is not going to disappear any time soon?”.

  7. Kyley Houghton

    I think…I used to be a careers adviser in schools & colleges (I have a QCG, NVQ 4 in Advice & Guidance and a degree, with 12 years experience in Careers work). Now I am a university admissions assistant. So skills and experience of impartial, qualified professionals has been lost, thanks to Gove et al. There are no jobs for advisers as the services have been decimated, no impartial careers service for young people or adults (the adult service is too linked to job centre and unachievable targets) & I have never before heard of CEC!

    Let’s hope someone wakes up and smells the coffee soon, otherwise the poor provision to young people will just get worse! I would not expect to be allowed to teach a lesson, so why should a teacher or employer (who is unqualified in my book) be expected to deliver impartial careers guidance?

  8. I’ve spent the best part of the last ten years looking at and developing tools for schools to improve the quality of the classroom based careers education delivered by teachers with young people aged 11-14. This part of the equation sits under the banners of ‘broadening horizons’ and ‘challenging stereotypes’ and rests on teasing out and learning from the assumptions we make about who gets to do what in society. However, my work becomes window dressing if it is not followed up with adequate support for individual students when they need it. Careers education can be improved in meaningful ways but the benefits are very likely lost if one-to-one support is not there. Employers can inspire and excite, and should definitely be more involved with schools, but they are not a substitute for targeted one-to-one guidance from trained professionals.