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Let’s use National Careers Week to talk about the future 

The below is an edited version of a speech that our Interim CEO, John Yarham, delivered at the National Careers Week 2020 launch event at Admiralty House. 

National Careers Week has become a highlight of the careers calendar. Every year it grows from strength to strength and we are very proud to support that growth. 

The week has become a platform for careers activity in thousands of schools and colleges across the country. Over the next few days you’ll hear countless inspiring examples of what schools, colleges and employers are doing to support young people’s aspirations.

Shining a light on careers

But National Careers Week has become more than just a platform. It’s become a moment in the year for us to step back and reflect on how we do careers and skills in this country.  And in no year has it been more important than in 2020.

The way we do careers education as a country has changed dramatically over the last few years. That change been shaped by the government’s Careers Strategy and its endorsement of the world-class standards that are the Gatsby Benchmarks.

After a period of uncertainty in careers education, the Strategy has provided welcome clarity to the sector, and a vision for what world class careers should look like. It’s been a roadmap for schools, colleges and careers professionals to follow. With half a million more young people meeting employers every single year compared to just two years ago, it’s an approach that is bearing fruit.

The future of careers education

The strategy takes us up to the end of 2020, just over 200 days from now. And over the next few weeks in Downing St, in the Palace of Westminster, and in Whitehall our future trading relationship with the rest of the world – some would argue the very shape our economy and jobs market – is being hammered out.

So now is a time we should all be talking about not just what has been achieved over the last few years. It’s also the right time to talk about what we’ll take forward beyond 2020. Our hope is that the careers community can use this week - and this year - to facilitate that debate.

Signs of success

There are plenty of numbers to back up the progress we’ve seen against this ambitious vision in the Careers Strategy. We know schools and colleges are buying into the vision because 80% of them have adopted the Gatsby Benchmarks.

We know that schools and colleges are embracing responsibility, as 75% of Careers Leaders say they’re positive about the future. And we know half a million more young people every are getting in front of employers every year

But the wonderful thing about National Careers Week is that it’s not just about numbers. It is about the many incredible, inspiring examples we’ll hear about over the next week of schools, colleges and young people doing incredible things.

It’s hard not to be optimistic when you hear about all these wonderful examples that National Careers Weeks helps to surface across the country. But we need to remember that it is far from ‘job done’ for careers education.

What’s next for careers?

We all need to start asking – and suggesting answers to – the question ‘what next for careers beyond 2020?’. Starting this debate now will help give schools and colleges the confidence to keep on working hard on these issues.

As part of this, at The Careers & Enterprise Company, we want to spend more of this year understanding the barriers that are stopping us being even more successful as a country at careers. As a sector we need to redouble our efforts to engage schools and colleges that are yet to engage in this agenda, so that all young people get the world class careers education they deserve.

National Careers Week is the perfect platform to celebrate the achievements of schools to date and kick off that debate about what the future holds. We’re proud to be a part of the Week.