‘Positive’ Jobcentre careers advice scheme lacks funding to expand

A careers programme which links Jobcentre staff with pupils does not have enough resources to expand, despite a positive response from teachers at many of the 1,200 schools that have taken part.

The Support for Schools programme has been “received positively” by teachers and should now expand to meet rising demand, according to a report published by the Department for Work and Pensions.

An evaluation of the programme, which was rolled out from November 2016, found that of about 1,700 schools contacted, 1,282 agreed to take part. In it, staff from Jobcentres talk to schools’ career leads to “design interventions that fit” pupils’ particular needs, and work directly with them on their work skills or develop CVs.

The DWP’s evaluation, which brings together findings from 108 interviews with careers leads, pupils and advisers, found schools particularly like the programme’s “consultative” approach.

Teachers also like that Jobcentre Plus advisers can give specific details about vacancies available in the local area.

They and their pupils are “most positive” about the fact that advisers’ focus was on helping NEET pupils. One school lead at a pupil referral unit in Birmingham said pupils “genuinely seemed to engage” with the advisers where they hadn’t done so with other providers previously.

“We’d started to give up on thinking anyone could help to be honest, so I was impressed,” they reported.

But the report also noted that because advisers had varying pre-existing links to local employers, some were more able to drive employer involvement in the programme than others.

Similarly, the programme faces challenges if it is to expand, the report warned. Most advisers reported being unable to meet the “large and growing number of requests” from schools wishing to participate without an increase in resources.

The Jobcentre Plus schools advisers “felt they could work more effectively if provided with greater resources or training opportunities”.

The government will either need to increase funding for the programme as word of mouth causes more schools to show interest, or will have to target it to more specific groups of pupils. Some advisers already reported having to a[portion resources sparingly as a result of rising demand.

One adviser told the DWP they were “concerned about resources” as to make an impact with pupils they need to be able to work with them consistently throughout the school year, rather than in patches.

Schools in rural areas were the most likely to feel they needed help providing careers advice for pupils, the report noted.

Government statistics show the UK unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds was higher than the national average last summer, at 11.9 per cent compared with 4.3 per cent for the national average, from May to July 2017.

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  1. There was a time when LAs employed professional careers advisers who worked with schools. They had the expertise and time which may be lacking in hard-pressed Job Centre staff.
    But Michael Gove dismissed careers advisers as self-interested parties spouting ‘garbage’.
    Careers ‘leads’ in schools need high-quality training and time to do the job properly. This is unlikely in the present funding crisis.