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Written - Progress on the Review of Careers Wales

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John Griffiths, Deputy Minister for Skills

I am today publishing the first product of the Review – an independent assessment of how the Careers Wales arrangements compare with careers information, advice and guidance systems in the UK and elsewhere by reference to OECD criteria of best practice. The study was undertaken by Professor Tony Watts, a leading international expert in this field. His report “Careers Wales: a Review in an International Perspective” will be made available in the Library and on the Welsh Assembly Government website.

The Report concludes that Careers Wales has particular strengths in terms of:

• a clear and coherent mission;
• the all-age nature of its services;
• its professionalism and the resultant quality of its services;
• the extent to which it is embedded in Assembly Government policies; and
• the extent to which it is embedded in local communities.

The report also notes some remaining challenges:

• the rapidly growing demand for increasing the levels of service to adults in response to the STWFW and welfare reform agendas as the sharp rise in redundancies and unemployment;
• the need to determine whether it is really intended that Careers Wales should be an all-age, all-ability service provider or whether it should be allowed to restrict access and differentiate in the service response to some categories of client in the interests of focussing available resources on those most in need of assistance; and
• the partnership agenda in which Careers Wales is already heavily engaged at a local level through Children and Young people’s partnerships and 14-19 networks and which is making heavy demands on Careers Wales management time.

The Report recognises the need for a significant rebalancing of services in favour of adult provision via the adoption of more overt differentiated provision for young people, increased attention to providing support in the workplace, and a greater focus on building the capacity of other organisations to deliver services. It notes that the development of Careers Wales’ engagement with employers, extending beyond support for careers education and work experience for young people into active skills and career development throughout working life, is now of critical importance.  

Professor Watts also perceives the need for improved leadership and strategic capacity within Careers Wales and a strengthened interface with the Assembly Government.

Alongside Professor Watts’ Report, I am also publishing a report by Estyn, which was commissioned as a contribution to the Review, providing an overview of the performance of Careers Wales companies on the evidence of inspection reports. It notes a variation in performance between the companies inspected. However, it does, at the same time, demonstrate that, although various shortcomings remain to be addressed, overall the performance is good and that Careers Wales companies are capable of achieving some outstanding results.

On the basis of both Reports, and taking into account observations made by the WESB Task and Finish Group that has run alongside the Watts’ review, I am extending the scope of the review of Careers Wales. The next stage of the Review will:

• encompass the broad span of careers education and information, advice and guidance services provided by the Careers Wales companies and other relevant adjacent service provision in education, the voluntary sector, business and the benefits system;

• consider Professor Watts’ assessment of how provision of careers services in Wales compares with that in other parts of the UK and other leading countries; and how the current arrangements in Wales might be developed into a world-class system;

• look at the particular requirements of different client groups and those of employers in helping individuals develop their career aspirations, learning pathways and career self-management and skills;

• consider the coherence and cost-effectiveness of delivery of existing careers-related services and how well Careers Wales companies, education providers, employment advisers and other adjacent service providers are able to work in partnership; this should include consideration of a reduction in the number of Careers Wales companies;

• develop the vision of a world-class, professionally-led, integrated system of careers education, information, advice and guidance, catering for all ages and all abilities; and

• propose a strategy for realising this vision.

I intend that the next stage will be led by an external appointee (along similar lines to the on-going Review of Higher Education) supported by a steering group of principal stakeholders, including Careers Wales companies.   I am looking to this further stage of the review to be completed before the end of the year.  I will make a further announcement on this in due course.

In the meantime, Careers Wales companies are responding to the considerable increase in demand for their services during these difficult economic times.  I announced at the fifth economic summit in April that we intended to provide funding to enable the appointment of an additional 30 careers advisers.  Arrangements for this funding are now being put in place.

I want to close by paying tribute to the work of the Careers Wales companies for the way in which they have responded to the economic downturn and the rise in unemployment and for the partnership working with Job Centre Plus which is such an important part of that response.  High-quality careers advice is vital in such difficult economic times – but it’s equally important as we look to the needs of the future.