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Our Board Member, Steve Holliday writes about the improvements in careers education across England and encourages businesses to get involved and help close the gap of opportunity.

Guess some of the top performing areas for careers education in England? No, it’s not London or the leafy South East. It’s places like Tees Valley, the Black Country and the Humber. Something counter-intuitive is happening. steve holliday, board member

Roll back 10 years. Careers advice in England was a national disgrace, as documented by Ofsted in their damning review of 2013.

As a CEO looking to recruit young people from schools I was outraged. There was no credible strategy for preparing young people to move successfully from education to work. My peers across industry felt the same.

Now careers education in England is improving - fast. So much so it is becoming a beacon of best practice, with delegations from Hong Kong and Spain looking to learn lessons. Ofsted has noted the improvement and has put careers higher up its inspection agenda.

Those improvements are being seen across England and it is some of the most deprived regions that are among the best performing.

The change has been orchestrated by a disruptive new organisation, The Careers & Enterprise Company. Set up by government, with strong business backing, it is setting new national standards for careers education, establishing systematic connections between business and schools and providing training for the new pool of Careers Leader teachers in schools and colleges. 

The results speak for themselves. Young people are moving into apprenticeships; business volunteers are working in schools and hosting students through this new approach. Aspirations are being raised by a new army of mentors. Businesses like Burberry in Yorkshire, BAE Systems in Blackpool, Blakemore in the Black Country and Jacobs in Tees Valley are leading the way.

When I was CEO of National Grid I lobbied for this sort of approach. It was clear to me neither the old school careers advice approach - which placed little premium on exposure to the real world of work - nor the haphazard one that followed in which a thousand businesses set up their own school engagement schemes - would work. I was constantly dismayed by what I saw being provided to our young people. I am not now.

Strikingly, schools and colleges are on board. Research shows they believe careers support is improving and have confidence in the future. At a time of real challenge in education this lack of cynicism is remarkable. They comment on the motivation they take from seeing young people’s aspirations develop and the positive impact this has on school results.

Businesses across the country, small and large, are getting on board. It’s good for community engagement, good for staff morale and, crucially, good for recruitment.

There are 150 Cornerstone Employers anchoring clusters of schools, with 2,500 business volunteers, known as Enterprise Advisers, attached directly to individual schools. And continues to grow. 

This is a space that is changing at pace. The potential to help our young people and our economy is significant. If you are not on board, you should be.

Give an Hour: www.careersandenterprise.co.uk/give-an-hour

Join the network: www.careersandenterprise.co.uk/employers-volunteers