David Willetts – “Connexions hasn’t worked”

Posted on January 25, 2011

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It seemed a simple enough question, but David Willetts looked, and sounded, somewhat surprised last night when asked whether the Government was intending to address the paucity of good quality information, advice and guidance in schools in England and Wales.

Continuing a theme raised earlier by Adrian Thomas of Network Rail, that good quality careers advice needs to be given far earlier, at 12 or 13, if we are to ensure a healthy pipeline of UK talent, especially in subjects such as STEM at university level, Grant Thornton’s Maria Floud asked the minister for universities and science whether he believed the current channels to reach school-age students were sufficient for employers who, like the much vaunted KPMG, want to recruit students before they go onto higher education.

Picking up on detail from the AGR Winter Survey 2011, which revealed that 27% of employers are targeting students before they reach university and highlighting the fact that the biggest challenge (as reported by 70.5% of them) is effective marketing to these students, Maria struck a chord with the Minister who conceded that “the Connexions service hasn’t worked.”

Indeed, it genuinely seemed as though the challenge of recruiting from thousands of schools rather than “between 30 and 120 universities” was something Mr Willetts had not previously ruminated over, clearly signalled by the fact that he produced a small, brown notebook to scribble the revelations, hopefully with the intention of addressing it at some later date.

the Connexions service hasn’t worked

Of course, for many people, the IAG afforded at A-level has for too long focused on driving students almost blindly to university or ignored them completely should they decide that that is not the route for them.  It’s certainly time to ensure that early-level careers advice is bolstered, though with many other priorities, the gorvernment response to the challenge may remain hidden in a small brown notebook for some time to come.

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