National Careers Service FAQs
Please find below some Frequently Asked Questions from National Careers Service providers who are coming forward for matrix Assessment.
All National Careers Service providers whether they are Prime Contractors or Sub-Contractors will need to be accredited to the current version of the matrix Standard by April 2013 if they wish to continue to be a provider. This decision was made by John Hayes, the Skills Minister when he launched the current version of the matrix Standard in October 2011.
The matrix Standard is now more rigorous and challenging. Of the organisations that have already been assessed against the recently revised Standard, 25% have not met the Standard and as a result have either gone into ‘Retaining Accreditation’ (this includes those that have been accredited to the Standard for a number of years) or need to have a ‘Second Stage Assessment’. The ‘Retaining Accreditation’ process enables organisations to maintain their accreditation whilst working on the areas where they have fallen short, however at this point an organisation would be retaining the previous version of the Standard which does not fulfil the requirement to be accredited to the current version of the Standard.
Organisations have found that it is taking them at least 4 months to be in a position whereby they are ready for their re-assessment and have sufficient evidence in place, particularly around aspects of continuous quality improvement.
Booking now does not mean being assessed straightaway but allows you to choose between now and October for your preferred dates for assessment.
The Skills Funding Agency has given the deadline of 31 May 2012 to book your assessment. Leaving it later does not allow you sufficient time should you need to be re-assessed, however if you still insist on this date you may find that we are already booked up with our ongoing assessments from organisations that have applied within the deadline. By booking early you are assured of getting your preferred date(s), give or take a week.
Analysis of recent assessments show that the key areas for improvement identified are within the strengthened areas of the Standard, specifically relating to aims and objectives (1.1), client outcomes (1.5), staff continuous development (2.4) and continuous quality improvement (element 4). Element 4 has 8 criteria within it and focuses on the monitoring and evaluation of all aspects of the service and looks at the impact of this upon the service.
That depends. Does your organisation deliver anything else other than National Careers Service (NCS)? If you do then your objectives may include your targets, but think more broadly about what you are trying to achieve through the various aspects of the service you are delivering. Even if you only deliver NCS provision, what is the purpose of what you are trying to achieve? For example you may be a third sector organisation whose purpose is to support the development of economic prosperity of a particular area – how will you measure your success in trying to achieve this? The key to 1.1 is that your objectives need to be clearly defined and measurable (and then for 4.1 you need to undertake the measurement) and that they link to any wider strategic aims.
Look at the nationally produced literature for Next Step/NCS; it states the purpose of the service is to provide support to clients to enable their successful entry to work through improved Skills for Life skills, improved interview skills, awareness of employment opportunities and awareness of what to do next. You may also have additional outcomes you are aiming to achieve for your clients. What do you tell your clients they can achieve from using your service? And how do you know what the impact of delivering your service has been on your clients? (4.2).
The matrix Standard is focussed on the outcomes you say you are aiming to achieve for your clients whether they are hard outcomes, soft outcomes or both. In the context of Next Step/NCS a hard outcome may be that someone has secured employment, started a learning programme or begun a career of self-employment. Soft outcomes may include increased self-confidence, more awareness of the local labour market, and understanding of what they need to do next in the career/job journey.
4.2 is about you understanding what has been the impact of your service on your clients and how you use this information to help improve the service you are providing to them. Ensure there is coherence between the following criteria 1.5, 3.1, 4.2:
• What are the outcomes you intend for your clients (1.5) e.g. increase confidence, improved interview skills, greater awareness of the local labour market
• What do you tell clients they can expect from your service (3.1)? Both in terms of what is available e.g. 1-1 sessions with an adviser, CV writing workshops, internet job searching etc; as well as what they can gain from taking advantage of the services available e.g. increased confidence, improved interview skills, greater awareness of the local labour market (the things that you said you wanted your clients to achieve)
• What have your clients achieved from using your service? Do clients tell you that their confidence has increased? How do you know if their interview skills have improved? Then, using the monitoring and evaluation activity you have undertaken, what have you done to further improve services for your clients?
In 1.1 of the Standard, you will have defined clearly what you intend your service to achieve; in order to deliver this service what skills, knowledge, competencies and qualifications do your staff need in order to help achieve those aims and objectives? Additionally, the guidance to the Standard states that ‘for careers guidance staff in England this should include professional standards and qualifications determined by the Careers Profession Alliance or other representative bodies’. At the time of writing, it is still not clear what these requirements will be in terms of specific qualifications; however at the heart of all of the discussions is not only qualifications but a strong emphasis on continuous professional development. Your NCS prime contractor should be able to keep you up to date with these developments.
Maybe, but you need to be able to describe how you considered what partnerships and networks will help to enhance the service you are able to provide to your clients. Clearly the Next Step/NCS sub contractor meetings will be useful in keeping you up to date with developments with the wider service and also the services delivered by other sub-contractors. However, for your clients, do you need to establish other links to wider networks, for example local learning providers, wider support services and complementary services such as housing associations, volunteer centres, welfare and debt advice agencies, families information services.
Your assessment is not an assessment of achieving your contractual targets, however the matrix Standard asks you to establish measurable objectives for your service (1.1) and define your intended client outcomes (1.5) and criteria 4.1 and 4.2 ask you to undertake the measurements against these in order to improve your service delivery. So, if you did not achieve your outcomes, what did you do as a result? What monitoring have you undertaken to establish how effective the changes have been? What your matrix Assessor is looking for is that you know what you have/have not achieved, and then what you have done as a result of that monitoring to improve services to clients.