In a speech on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, called for “an end to snobbery surrounding vocational training” and outlined new measures to ensure secondary school pupils are offered the best opportunities and advice about options post-16.
Clegg pledged that the reformed system will improve the school careers service so young people get a better understanding on courses, training, jobs and skills.
Local authorities will be responsible for providing new vocational qualification websites holding the latest information from schools, colleges and employers. It will offer 16-year-olds who don’t want to go to university access to information about a full range of college courses, apprenticeships, traineeships and other work-based programmes.
A key part of the new plan will be the requirement for schools to develop closer relationships with local employers, who will now play a bigger role in inspiring and preparing young people for work. Schools will be given flexibility on how to best implement these new requirements.
The initiative follows recent criticism of the government’s approach to school careers advice. Last September, an Ofsted review found that only one in five schools are giving detailed careers support.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) welcomed the development of vocational qualification websites. CBI director of employment and skills policy, Neil Carberry said: “This is a major step forward in making vocational routes more visible and will help put it on a level footing with more traditional academic routes.”
Selected Jobcentres will also give 16- and 17-year-olds access to personalised advice and support. Currently, Jobcentre Plus only provides services to those aged 18 and over. The new scheme will enable young people to talk to someone about options on applying for jobs or training places.
Unemployed young people aged 18 to 21 and without a grade C or better in English and maths will be offered online learning courses, which if not undertaken will see jobseeker's allowance withheld.
In addition, work placements will be offered to young people who have been out of work for six months.
Although many organisations have welcomed the Liberal Democrat leader's announcement, some believe there are deeper structural issues that need to be addressed.
Rhian John, Impetus-PEF’s director of policy and campaigns said: “These programmes on their own will not end the crisis. We need a vision for Britain’s youth labour market, one that takes ownership and accountability at the highest level, and this is missing from the coalition’s announcement.”