Evaluation of the Careers & Enterprise CEF18 Part B Fund for Disadvantaged Groups
The Careers & Enterprise Fund 2018 – Part B aimed to test innovative approaches to career guidance and preparing for the world of work with young people from disadvantaged groups.
Summary & aims
The Careers & Enterprise Fund 2018 – Part B aimed to test innovative approaches to career guidance and preparing for the world of work with young people from disadvantaged groups. This included young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), Looked After Children (LAC) / Care Leavers and young people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities.
Funding was also available for activity to increase employers’ capacity to engage with and support young people with SEND. This funding aimed to improve employer confidence in working with these groups and create more employer encounters and workplace experiences.
The fund was evaluated by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) and the Institute for Employment Studies. It aimed to generate learning about how the projects met the goals of the fund and to identify the main facilitators and challenges to effective delivery. The fund ran from January 2019 to March 2021.
Researchers: Jonathan Buzzeo, Chiara Manzoni, Georgie Akehurst, De-Jon Ebanks-Silvera and Rakhee Patel
The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) appointed the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) and the Institute for Employment Studies to evaluate the Careers & Enterprise Fund 2018 (CEF18) Part B. The Fund supports the delivery of the Government’s careers strategy, launched in 2017. It was designed to test effective practice in delivering career guidance activities with disadvantaged groups. The career guidance activities that were tested were aligned with the Gatsby Foundation’s 8 Good Career Guidance benchmarks.
The evaluation was designed to capture lessons about the implementation of the programme for the CEC as fund managers, and wider partners, stakeholders and grant recipients. It also aimed to assess the ‘evidence of promise’ of funded projects in raising aspirations for young people, increasing their awareness of different routes and developing career plans. Finally, the evaluation sought to understand which models of delivering career guidance were effective in contributing towards the achievement of these outcomes. This report summarises the key findings from the evaluation.
Findings and Recommendations
Perceived outcomes for young people
The Fund evaluation identified a range of perceived outcomes that the project activities were successful in achieving. The emphasis on these outcomes differed by target group, reflecting their different starting points and needs in the context of these projects.
- Overall, projects supporting young people with SEND had a greater focus and more reported success in developing career plans and planning later transitions into further education or employment.
- In contrast, projects supporting GRT communities in general focused more on developing the foundational skills and behaviours that would be required in the workplace, as well as broadening the range of options that young people believed were available to them. To some extent this was reflective of the younger age groups targeted as part of these projects, as well as the greater work needed in gaining parental support for any later transitions.
- Similarly for projects focusing on LAC, participants could have high levels of social anxiety, find it difficult to express their views and opinions and have a say in the shape and direction of their lives. Providers were therefore focused on helping young people develop these core social and emotional skills and develop a degree of self-reliance. This in turn would help participants to start to make their own informed choices about which career and education and training pathways they might pursue, before planning any individual transitions.
- The most widely reported positive outcome across all projects was increased confidence and self-esteem. Most often, these outcomes were encouraged via regular group work on a shared task. The tasks generally centred on a project of wider community or social value, such as delivering a live performance, a presentation, designing a playground or designing a digital app.
- In all cases young people were encouraged to collaborate, share their views, and adopt discrete roles and responsibilities in relation to the project they were designing and completing. This approach encouraged participants to engage, speak up and gain confidence in their peer interactions as their contributions were positively received. Providers reported that young people’s experiences on the project were therefore distinct from their everyday experiences in so far as they felt that they were listened to and that their views were valued.
- This type of approach was used across all 3 target groups. However, in the case of LAC, providers also sought to pair these activities with 1-2-1 mentorship. Mentors were present during the group-based activities as well. This helped ensure young people felt they were in a safe and supportive environment, with a familiar adult present, and could express their opinions without prejudice.
- A secondary, perceived outcome for LAC from engaging in these group-based projects was greater motivation to do well in education. Providers noted that through the completion of a weekly task, young people became familiar with meeting a regular commitment and making progress. Providers observed that this sense of commitment could transfer into their behaviour in school and cited a few instances where pupils’ attendance had improved since engaging with the project.
- Employer encounters also provided opportunities for young people to develop their self-confidence, particularly where providers were able to facilitate workplace visits. Providers working with young people with SEND, for instance, noted that participants were used to being discriminated against in their daily lives and expected to face the same issues within the workplace. However, the positive exposure they had with employers who were friendly and respectful challenged these expectations and improved their confidence in interacting with these groups.
- The development of employability skills was another commonly reported outcome, particularly for projects supporting young people with SEND, which generally had a stronger employment related focus. Providers
found that many young people could be unfamiliar with these concepts and terminology (e.g. ‘skill’, ‘quality’, ‘strength’, ‘task’, ‘job-ready’). They noted that these ideas were better introduced and made explicit through practical activities and events, such as the group-based projects described previously, which gave young people a chance to apply these concepts to real world situations and make them more memorable.
- The projects delivered through the Fund were also seen to be successful in raising the career aspirations of the young people involved. Again, these outcomes were more commonly reported among projects supporting young people with SEND, due to their greater focus on planning later transitions. This outcome could be achieved through various activities: through myth busting exercises around roles available to young people with SEND; the presentation of role models with similar needs; via personal guidance interviews where providers highlighted how a young person’s existing skills and interests could be pursued as a career; and workplace visits where the range of roles available in large organisations was highlighted.
- For projects focused on young people from GRT communities, these outcomes could be achieved via the group-based, practical activities they were tasked with completing. Where projects involved elements of construction, for instance, some participants subsequently expressed an interest in working outdoors and using tools in their future employment.
- For projects supporting LAC, as noted, their focus was developing participants’ self-confidence and encouraging them to express their views and opinions. The development of career aspirations as part of these projects was therefore not always explicit, but was seen as a secondary, later outcome of this foundational work. In one instance, however, it was observed that groups sessions facilitated by a care leaver who had progressed into further education and then employment was an effective means of highlighting to participants that these options were open to them.
- Finally, several projects were also seen to increase participants knowledge of potential careers, pathways to employment (such as education and training courses) and sources of information, advice and guidance (IAG). These reported outcomes were most often facilitated through personal guidance interviews and the development of a careers plan, which encouraged young people to research potential options. Providers also sought to provide reassurances as part of this process, such as explaining the differences in attending college compared to school for those with negative experiences of mainstream education.
- For GRT focused projects, delivering this information via pop-up events hosted within these communities was identified as a successful approach. Where providers attempted to arrange visits to local FE colleges or host a presentation at their own premises, they could have low levels of attendance. However, delivery within the community was seen as an effective means of overcoming these logistical difficulties and ensuring the activity had greater reach. One provider that utilised this approach noted that several young people from the community subsequently enrolled at a local college that delivered one of the talks.
Perceived outcomes for employers
- Both providers and employers spoke extensively about how their exposure to young people with SEND had positively challenged their presumptions regarding participants’ skills, capabilities and behaviours.
- Several employers commented that they had now learned the importance of looking past a ‘label’ and treating each young person as an individual with their own set of needs and abilities.
- Some organisations stated that they hoped their increased confidence and knowledge in working with these groups would enable them to look at their recruitment processes and ensure they are inclusive in future.