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The government’s careers strategy creates an evidence-led system of careers support for young people, and we are delighted to be at its heart.

For years policymakers and practitioners have been dogged by the question of what constitutes high quality careers support. Recent breakthrough research from The Gatsby Charitable Foundation led by Sir John Holman has brought clarity to this debate. The careers strategy announced by government this week endorses The Gatsby Benchmarks for Good Careers Guidance and creates an opportunity for sustained progress across the country.

A key insight from The Gatsby Charitable Foundation’s Benchmarks is that young people need careers support from a range of sources. The research highlights that no single, simple intervention can make a young person ‘career ready’. Young people need vivid experiences with potential future employers and places of study to bring opportunities to life. Without these, ‘career’ is an abstract term that is neither empowering nor inspiring. They also need well-structured information about the jobs market as well as personalised guidance tailored to their passions and strengths.

The power of the network

Delivering this is not simple. It requires a network of employers, higher and further education, careers and enterprise providers and careers development professionals. The challenge of building and coordinating this network has often made it difficult to deliver quality support to young people. A ‘project’ or a ‘person’ cannot deliver this. It needs to be nationally structured, locally led, and engage those who are willing to work together to make this a reality for young people.

In October of this year we published our State of the Nation report in collaboration with The Gatsby Charitable Foundation. It found that the implementation of the Gatsby Benchmarks across the country was patchy. What was encouraging, however, was that implementation had improved since the report’s publication in 2014: even before the government had endorsed the benchmarks, schools had taken them up and were making progress. The careers strategy supports this trend by providing schools with a clear steer on what constitutes best practice.

The new strategy also expands our role from our recent focus on employer engagement to a coordination role across all of the benchmarks and the provision of additional, local support in 20 areas. It should turbo-charge progress for the coming years.

A focus on school leadership and impact

The State of the Nation research also found that those schools and colleges that were successful in meeting the benchmarks had a few characteristics in common. Senior focus and a designated ‘careers leader’ were crucial. Schools needed someone to ‘air-traffic control’ this support within a school, targeting it to the young people most in need. In recent years the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, Career Development Institute and Teach First have all called for this careers leader role to be recognised and supported in schools. This strategy now highlights the need for this role and provides resource for training and support.

The test of this strategy will be the outcomes for young people. New data from the Department for Education which tracks outcomes from school to work will make it possible to see how young people who receive this support fare in the labour market. More immediately we are delighted to be working with the Education Endowment Foundation and others to measure more immediate impacts on young people’s resilience and self-efficacy. As schools and colleges work towards the Gatsby Benchmarks - ideally using Compass to diagnose their progress - and start to compare progress on inputs to progress on outcomes, we can begin to really understand and improve system performance.

This is the start of a measurable, evidence led process which will lead us to a much more effective system of careers support for our young people, and we are delighted to be at its heart.

We will share more detail on how we plan to implement the elements of this strategy that involve us over the coming months with a full plan developed and published by the spring.

Read more

State of the Nation report
Evaluate your careers activity with Compass
Careers strategy on gov.uk