Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) and Enterprise Skills

Definitions:

IAG:  Information, Advice and Guidance is a range of services including the provision of impartial, learner-centred, advice and guidance, to assist in making appropriate career decisions and choices, which are informed and well thought through. It enables people to apply their knowledge, understanding, skills and experiences to manage their career and make informed decisions about their education, training, qualifications and ultimate employment.

Enterprise Skills: Enterprise is a set of skills, dispositions and attitudes that include creativity, individuality, communication, leadership and commercial awareness. Other titles used for these essential skills were critical business skills or work attributes and formerly called soft skills which really did not convey the true meaning of these skills.

In the current recession and with the totally unacceptable high levels of youth unemployment across Europe and beyond, IAG within the education and training system has never been of greater importance. There needs to be a series of radical reforms at all levels of education and training to create and resource more effective IAG systems. Equally important is the urgent need to put a greater emphasis on enterprise and employability skills in order to prepare learners to more effectively respond to the changing requirements and demands of the labour market and the continuing impact of the emerging new technologies and the global economy.

Introducing more comprehensive IAG to programmes/qualifications especially at entry and equally importantly during the programme along with enterprise skills into existing curricula will present major challenges to the education and training systems which are already experiencing substantial cuts in their budgets. However, if a country is serious about rejuvenating and rebalancing its economy these reforms are both essential and urgent. Rebalancing also applies to the range of programmes that are offered. Schools, colleges, training providers and universities must accept and manage the impact not only of the current financial crisis but the massive transitions that are occurring globally. People leaving education and training programmes must possess appropriate skills and capabilities for sustainable employment and an ongoing capability to cope with the changing demands of the work environment.

IAG will play a central and critical part in these reforms including in the development of enterprise skills, complementing the mainstream curriculum but not as a voluntary bolt-on activity. It must be totally impartial, operate on an honest brokership basis and be unbiased. Though free from pressure by employers and education and training providers at the point of delivery it is crucially informed by up to date knowledge of employers as they reconfigure their businesses and workforce needs. It must also take full account of other factors affecting and impacting on future labour market information.

In addition it must be equally accessible to all learners and people in general seeking information and guidance on jobs and relevant qualifications and be developed and delivered by qualified, skilled and experienced staff who follow an agreed code of practice. Effectively managed IAG will motivate learners to make informed and well thought through decisions about their further studies and employment options. The process involves a multitude of activities including advising, advocating, assessing, counselling, enabling, feedback, informing, innovating, managing and networking. This is not an easy set of attributes to achieve but is essential for the process to succeed. Many teachers do not have any experience of employment outside education and therefore other professionals need to be employed.

Another absolutely essential activity in developing enterprise skills are effective and relevant work placement/experience programmes particularly at school level for 14-18 year olds. So the recent ruling by the British government to withdraw funding to schools to facilitate placements following a misguided recommendation by the Wolf Review is totally bizarre. Such programmes in all their manifestations e.g. work experience/placement/sampling/shadowing should be an essential feature of the school curriculum and compulsory on college and university vocational programmes.  Evidence over many decades has shown the benefits of sandwich and work experience programmes and has proved an invaluable activity in helping learners to determine more confidentially their future studies and employment aspirations.

One only needs to look at the many elements that comprise the culture of enterprise skills to see that an effective IAG system is an essential part in the curriculum to develop creativity, employability, a sense of independence, innovation, personal responsibility, problem solving, risk taking, self belief/motivation etc. Enterprise skills , critical business skills or attributes are often referred to as soft skills are essential in preparing people for employment. It is essential they are developed in the school/college curriculum and during work experience programmes. Clearly if  IAG is to be seen as relevant it must be integrated into the mainstream curriculum and include compulsory work experience programmes in order to reinforce the importance of enterprise and other basic skills. If countries want highly qualified flexible workers who are innovative and creative and able to gain sustainable and rewarding employment and support economic development and international competitiveness then enterprise skills are essential along with effective IAG programmes.  This is particularly important in Britain with the development of the  TechBacc and an increased range of apprenticeship and vocationally orientated programmes.

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