By Jane Hickie, AELP

Delivering work-based learning stands at the heart of what AELP members do week-in, week-out. Learning at Work Week 2022 gives us a brilliant opportunity to reflect on that and to think about how we can ensure that even more people have access the training they need to fulfil their potential.  

Gaining practical on-the-job experience alongside quality off-the-job training is a great way to develop your career while earning. Despite this, vocational learning is still perceived to be less prestigious than academic study and many people are not aware of the ways in which work-based learning can transform their lives. That’s why this year’s Learning at Work Week theme of ‘Learning Uncovered’ is so important. 

Decent careers information, advice and guidance (CIAG) is crucial in helping people overcome barriers to learning. Alongside Amazing Apprenticeships and Metaverse, we are therefore working towards opening an online careers area in the autumn, using an advanced browser-based virtual technology to highlight the wide availability of apprenticeship and other career options, with availability on an ongoing 24/7 basis – we know it will attract interest from all over the country.  

But this alone isn’t enough. We need every school leaver to be aware of the vocational and technical routes open to them. We must move away from the current fragmented system which focuses too much on traditional pathways. Doing so will pay enormous dividends for our economy and embed into society a culture of lifelong, work-based learning. 

Improving access to careers information, advice and guidance 

People need good quality, impartial and accessible careers information, advice and guidance to understand the options available to them. Yet for too many people this isn’t available.  

The Baker Clause means schools must allow colleges and training providers to inform them about technical education qualifications and apprenticeships. But CIAG isn’t accessible to all. Compliance with this legislation is poor, with IPPR reporting just two in five schools adhere to the clause. 

That’s why AELP pushed for – and achieved – a number of improvements to the Skills and Post-16 Education Act to strengthen enforcement of the Baker clause. The amendment from Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Commons’ Education Select Committee, led to assurances from ministers that enforceable expectations would be placed on schools. Now the Skills Act has received royal assent, we await details on what these mean in practice. 

The Skills and Post-16 Education Act isn’t the only way in which CIAG policy has been strengthened. Mark Jenkinson MP was successful in turning his Private Members Bill on careers advice into law with the new Education (Careers Guidance in Schools) Act 2022. This further extends the duty on schools to provide careers guidance.  

Our submission to the Education Select Committee’s inquiry into CIAG highlights how we believe more people can be made aware of their options.  

Currently, government plans on compulsory careers interactions are not ambitious or bold enough.  

We believe there should be at least two high-quality careers meetings per pupil, per year, which involve a range of further education providers.  

There must also be better workforce development for teaching staff, so they are equipped with the right information to support pupils and their parents or guardians.  

Finally, more must be done to incentivise schools to promote vocational and technical education and schools that fail to comply with the Baker Clause should be penalised in their Ofsted inspection.  

Work-based learning transforms lives 

Work-based learning transforms lives. But the technical education landscape remains too difficult to navigate for too many young people. We want everyone to know how they can get on the path to a successful and rewarding career, and high-quality CIAG is key to that. AELP will continue to focus energy on ensuring that the government understands why improving CIAG is so important.  

Jane Hickie is Chief Executive of AELP