What does the Conservative manifesto mean for careers?

It is the time of the election when parties start to release their manifestos. As I have done oft times before, I will try and keep up and give my take on what the different parties are promising for careers.

First up The Conservative and Unionist Party Manifesto 2024 which is entitled Clear plan, bold action, secure future. There has already been a fair bit of general analysis of it with The Guardian arguing that is un-costed and based on unrealistic savings from the welfare budget. The general rhetoric in the manifesto is that the party has a PLAN, and that even though ordinary people probably can’t spot it, this PLAN is already working and will work even more in the future if you put your trust in the Conservatives for another five years. Whether this is a good strategy is unclear given all of the problems that the government has after 14 years, but, I’ll leave others to debate that. So, in this post, I wanted to focus on what it says about careers.

The answer is not a lot. The word ‘career’ only appear once, where it is used in a section on farming where it promises that the government will promote ‘agri-food careers and skills’. But there are two important sections that will be of interest to those with an interest in careers. Firstly a section on employment policy (‘Our plan to get more people into work and build a fairer welfare system’) and secondly on education and youth policy (‘Our plan to give young people the opportunities and skills they need’).

Employment

Most of the party’s employment policy essentially boils down to an increase in benefit conditionality. Too many people are claiming employment related benefits, this is bad and so we need a bigger stick to get them to go back to work. Disabled people and those with mental health problems are particularly targeted as people who are taking too much from the system and need to be pushed back into work. Mainly this will be done by reducing benefits, but there is also some talk of the WorkWell service, which is essentially a new government occupational health service, which is likely to include some career support.

There is lots of ‘cracking down’ and talk of abuse of the system and people making lifestyle choices to remain unemployed. This is weird as most analyses suggest that benefits have become harder to access and worth less over the period of this Conservative government. This raises big questions about both the morality and the practicality of the strategy outlines. In other words simply reducing access to benefits isn’t really sufficient as an employment policy.

Education

The education policy begins with a rousing endorsement of human capital theory.

Education is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet, which is why since 2010 we have focused on driving up standards in education.

The Conservatives argue that education has got better under them and will continue to improve over the next five years. This will be done by protecting funding for schools (presumably when most other services are expected to be cut), offering incentives to recruit teachers in key (STEM) subjects, banning mobile phones in schools and increasing the amount of PE lessons. OK, but why are we experiencing teacher shortages and are phone and insufficient PE really the biggest issues.

More substantially there is a reassertion of the idea that the 16-19 phase will be reorganised (again), and that the Advanced British Standard will be introduced as a framework to bring together academic and vocational qualifications. This is not necessarily a bad idea, but so shortly after the introduction of the T levels, it does seem guaranteed to deliver groans amongst all educational institutions and educators working in the 16-19 phase.

Then you’ve got some reasonable stuff on tracking what is happening with home educated students, some anti-sex education stuff dressed up as parents rights and some promises to expand provision in SEND.

Outside of schools the signature policy is the introduction of National Service for young people. Which raises all sorts of issues that I would probably devote a blog too if there was any chance that it was actually going to happen. Suffice to say that it is a bit rich to be spending this much money on something that most young people don’t want, when the government has spent the last decade running down funding for the valuable and popular National Citizen Service.

Post 18 the manifesto promises more apprenticeships and less poor quality university courses (which means those with low post-graduation salaries) and continuing with the implementation of the Lifelong Learning Entitlement. So, basically there is no new thinking at all about lifelong learning, which is a marked difference from the last Conservative manifesto which had quite a lot to say.

Nothing about career guidance, work experience or anything similar.

All in all very little to see here for those interested in little things like decent work, careers, education and young people.

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