May 26, 2018 dmh


The Committee questioned the Chief Executive and Chair of the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) on the organisation’s role in coordinating careers and enterprise support and the delivery of the Government’s careers strategy. The CEC was established as an independent social enterprise in 2015 with the aim of supporting schools and colleges in improving their careers guidance for those aged 12 to 18:

Careers and Enterprise Company under fire from MPs
The organisation has been described as a ‘woeful waste of public money’, the Commons Education Select Committee hears
By Stephen Exley 16 May 2018
MPs have raised serious concerns about the impact and purpose of the Careers and Enterprise Company.
One member of the Commons Education Select Committee claimed that it had been described as a “woeful waste of public money”, and said the performance of the organisation, which has an annual budget of almost £19 million, was questionable.
CEC’s chief executive, Claudia Harris, and chair, Christine Hodgson, faced robust questioning from the committee this morning, during a hearing which discussed careers guidance and delivery of the government’s careers strategy.
MPs repeatedly raised concerns about what evidence the CEC had to prove its effectiveness. In response to statistics about the number of “encounters” between students and employers that the CEC had facilitated, members of the committee called for hard data demonstrating the impact of these encounters.
Committee chair Robert Halfon said he “cannot understand” why the company did not have “proper measurements” to demonstrate its effectiveness.  “You may be doing a huge amount, but no one knows,” he added.
‘Enormous’ salaries
MP Lucy Powell criticised the “enormous” advertised salaries on offer at the CEC, citing examples of a chief marketing officer for £100,000, and a head of research receiving £60-70,000. In response, Ms Harris said the organisation was “very careful” to control its costs.
‘I don’t think you can convey what your impact is and what your purpose is’: ‪@LucyMPowell says she thinks ‪@CareerEnt has been asked to do ‘too many extra things’ by govt . Ms Powell also raised concerns about the remit of the CEC, suggesting that it had been asked to do “too many extra things” by the government, adding: “People don’t know what you’re doing.” “I don’t think you can convey what your impact is and what your purpose is,” she continued.
Ms Hodgson told the committee that its national network of “enterprise coordinators” connects clusters of schools and colleges with employers and careers programmes, and that it had received “plenty of positive feedback”.
But Ms Powell said one local enterprise partnership official had told the committee that the service was a “woeful waste of public money”.
Ms Powell added: “It feels to me like the government has given you these extra things to deliver for it, and you’re not actually in a position to do that properly because you’ve not got the experience and the central know-how to do that.”
Ms Harris said that, among the schools it had worked with that were surveyed, 80 per cent said the network was effective, and 80 per cent of employers “want to continue working with it”.
Schools Week
Transparency concerns over CEC’s £5m disadvantage fund
Freddie Whittaker May 16, 2018
The Careers and Enterprise Company faced MPs’ questions over its “giant and confusing” structure and a lack of transparency over its spending of public money.
One member of the parliamentary education committee suggested that the CEC, set up in 2015 with tens of millions of pounds in government funding, is an “over-bloated quango” that cannot prove if its efforts have an effect on pupils.
Claudia Harris, the company’s chief executive, and Christine Hodgson, its chair, were quizzed today about their £2 million research budget, the staffing structure and the lack of evidence the organisation is making a difference. At one point, neither could confirm if all of a £5 million government fund for disadvantaged pupils was specifically going to support that group. I cannot understand why you don’t do proper measurements of the outcomes. You could easily ask the schools
Since 2015, the CEC has spent around £900,000 on nine research reports, and around £1 million more will be spent in the coming years.
Committee chair Robert Halfon accused it of spending the money on “being a think-tank”, rather than “on the front line” in schools.
But Harris claimed the research allows the company to allocate money “effectively”, and helps employers and schools understand what works. The company also has to evaluate the impact of its investment fund, which grants cash to social enterprises, and its network of 2,000 volunteer “enterprise advisers” who work with schools. However, she admitted the CEC does not currently collect data on the destinations of pupils who benefit from its work, and won’t start doing so until September 2019.
It had set out to lower the number of cold spots – areas identified as having low pupil outcomes and employability.
“While the cold spots are improving, what we can’t prove is that that is our impact,” said Harris. “The way you have to do the work to prove that is you have to look at an individual level at the young people that we’re helping, and then at what their outcomes are.
“From next year, we already have a resource that schools use to track their careers activities, and we’re going to start looking at that at a young person level.”
Robert Halfon
Halfon, who dealt with the company in its infancy in his former role as skills minister, described MPs’ “frustration”.
“When I was in my previous role, when I discussed these things with you, you said to me ‘oh we are going to do all this’, and that was a year ago, and now you’re saying it will be next year.
“I cannot understand why you don’t do proper measurements of the outcomes of [pupils]. You could easily ask the schools, for example, what’s happened in those areas. I think that is why the committee is frustrated, because we don’t know. You may be doing a huge amount of good, but no-one knows.”
Lucy Powell, a former shadow education secretary, wanted to know whether the main purpose of the company, which employs 125 “enterprise coordinators” across England, is delivery or sharing best-practice.
There is a “sense that this has become this over-bloated quango”, Powell warned, as she questioned the company’s £19 million a year budget, for which “the impact just isn’t there”.
Uncertainty over disadvantage funding
Harris and Hodgson were also unable to directly answer questions over the way a £5 million fund for disadvantaged pupils is being spent.
It received the money on top of its existing funding to create a new investment fund which would “support the most disadvantaged pupils”.
But Harris confirmed that half of the cash is going towards a project – the “innovation in personal careers guidance” scheme – which is aimed at all pupils, and not just the poorest.
When pushed on whether she was “confident” all of the £5 million would therefore be spent on disadvantaged pupils, Harris said she was “pretty sure” it would, but would have to check.
Halfon slammed her lack of detail.
“This is the problem with the transparency issue. You’re not clear on how money is spent on individual projects, you don’t publish board minutes,” he said.
Update: After the heating, the Careers and Enterprise Company clarified that the full £5m will indeed be spent on disadvantaged pupils. To achieve this, the assessment criteria for the project will require all applications to “address disadvantage as a pass/fail requirement”, a spokesperson said.
FE News
CEC slammed for multimillion-pound research spending
Paul Offord May 16, 2018
The Careers and Enterprise Company has been heavily criticised for spending almost £1 million on research and not on frontline guidance for learners.
During a bruising appearance before the Commons education select committee, where CEC was called an “overbloated quango”, its chair Christine Hodgson admitted that £900,000 had been spent on research since it was set up in July 2015.
Nine research reports were pushed out in the last few months of 2017 alone.
Ms Hodgson and chief executive Claudia Harris provoked further bemused reaction when they added that another £1,000,000 was likely to be spent on research over the next three years. “So that is money not going to the front line?” asked Mr Halfon.
Robert Halfon
“Why do you spend money on that when you could have think-tanks, or universities, or the Department for Education doing that? Why do you need to spend £900,000 which could go to frontline careers advice, on being a think tank, which is not your role?”
Ms Harris countered that much of their research “underpins where we focus our spending – like the cold spot reports; we have got a few other reports that do same thing”. CEC also has to “evaluate our work”.
She was referring to a series of reports from 2015 and more recently this February, which identified and updated on key “cold spots” across the nation, where the CEC believes careers advice is most needed and has invested as a result.
FE Week has persistently pressed the company, which was designed to connect young people with the world of work, for details of the colleges that it works with, and how it is engaging them.
We revealed in December 2016 a postcode lottery for FE coverage, with 15 local enterprise partnerships not covered in its “enterprise adviser network” – and no London FE and sixth-form colleges at all.
Ms Harris insisted that the CEC is now working with 40 per cent of FE colleges, which works out at around 140.
She conceded that the Gatsby benchmarks for careers guidance were built for schools, so the CEC is “working with the Association of Colleges and others to develop Gatsby benchmarks for colleges which will come online from September”.
Colleges were warned earlier this year that they could be stripped of funding if they do not comply with the government’s new careers guidelines.
Updated guidance published in February by the Department for Education, following the unveiling of the government’s long-overdue careers strategy in December, said colleges need to meet eight “Gatsby benchmarks”. Colleges were expected to begin to work towards these standards, which have been designed over the past three years to ensure they succeed in a post-16 setting, and meet them by the end of 2020. The guidance warned that colleges risk losing their grant funding if the demands are not met in that timescale.
Kirsty Lord, deputy chief executive of the AoC, confirmed that it was working with CEC on the benchmarks and other aspects of the careers strategy. She said the organisation had “welcomed the opportunity to feedback to the CEC on both the Guidance on Careers Leaders in Colleges document, due to be available for colleges by the beginning of the 2018/19 academic year, and on the Gatsby Benchmarks and self-assessment tool for colleges. We are working with CEC to engage members in consultation on the benchmarks to ensure these are fit for purpose for colleges”.
The eight existing benchmarks were described by skills minister Anne Milton as the “bedrock of our careers strategy” around Christmas. Committee member Lucy Powell MP complained that CEC doesn’t seem certain of its purpose. There is “sense it has become an overbloated quango,” she added.
CEC was also criticised over high salaries it pays staff and a lack of transparency during today’s education committee hearing.
“We don’t publish board minutes,” said Ms Hodgson. “We are an independent organisation, but all of our activity is transparent.”
But Mr Halfon countered: “Given that you get money from the government, shouldn’t you publish them?”
The CEC representatives agreed to “take that away” as a point worth investigating.
They were also probed on a claim from their 2017 annual report, which claimed to have “surpassed our target of supporting more than 250,000 young people through our first investment fund, six months ahead of schedule”.
“We were expecting to help 250,000 but have actually helped 380,000 people which we’re really pleased about,” said Ms Harris.
But the MPs criticised the CEC for focusing on “encounters” between CEC-backed employers who provided some sort of careers advice, and not on outcomes – such as how many went on to a job or relevant training, which the panel members could not provide information about.
Schools Week Article about the Careers Enterprise Company follow up to the Education Select Committee Hearing

22nd May 2018

The Careers and Enterprise Company – A Bit more Transparency Required from this Taxpayer Funded Body Watson

The Careers and Enterprise Company must have felt somewhat relieved when their recent evidence session with the Select Committee ended. The Committee was less than impressed by the CEC’s transparency, accountability and the way it measures (or doesn’t ,as the case may be)  its outcomes. No board minutes are published for example. 

Not much either on how the funding it gets from the DfE is given out and what specific projects it spends it on. It also spends, and intends to continue to spend, yearly, at least £ 1million on research. There is much waffle about stakeholders being kept informed, but if you drill down a bit they are keeping people a bit informed about inputs, rather than substantive outputs and their impact on young people. So bruised were the CEC after the session that they asked their Twitter friends to send out positive messages about what a great job they are doing. Oh, dear!

Unfortunately, this is how quangos too often behave, because they can.  They have no direct accountability in the way a government department, or indeed, a Minister has. You see quangos, such as CEC   are’ arms -length organisations’.   Always claiming   to be ‘independent organisations’, in practice they are no such thing. They   are appointed by the government and taxpayer funded, through DfE. What the government gives, it can take away, of course, and relying entirely on taxpayer funding, obviously have to be very closely aligned with, and supportive of, current government policy. That is not independence in any meaningful sense of the word.   

When the CEC was established by Nicky Morgan she said that over time, the company would become self-funded, with employers covering the company’s costs. Yet, here we are three years down the road, with the CEC still firmly on the governments books.  Indeed, the government has gone terribly quiet about the self-funding commitment.

Organisations that are funded by the taxpayer should be transparent and fully accountable for how they spend taxpayer’s money.  They should also have to demonstrate clearly the   impact and value for money they offer. Telling MPs how many interactions you have is about quantity, not quality, or impact. And, of course, they should publish the minutes of board meetings and abide by the principles of sound governance. It is worrying that the CEC needs to be told the facts of life on this score, by the Select Committee.  Careers guidance providers and schools, seeking to follow recent strengthened guidance, look with growing envy on the scale of funding being allocated to this quango. Not surprisingly they feel short changed, by comparison, and it is they not the CEC that are delivering front line services to young people.  Shouldn’t we be more careful about how we use relatively scarce taxpayers’ money and allocate it where it will have most immediate impact on the lives and opportunities of young people.? Bit radical I know, and left field, but it has to be said.


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