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Students facing the biggest barriers can and do benefit most from high quality careers education support

07 Mar 2023

The Rt Hon. the Lord Blunkett, shares his view on the importance of careers education and its vital role in helping get young people ‘ready for work and ready for life’ and as a building block to meet skills and productivity challenges, from his foreword to CEC’s Ready for the Future Report

Careers support in schools and colleges is integral to raising aspirations and enabling young people, in particular those from less affluent backgrounds, to realise their potential and explore careers in high-value occupations. Building aspiration, and therefore expectation, is a challenge for life, and not just the foundation provided in formal compulsory education.

The findings from Ready for the Future are clear. Investment in careers support helps young people to aim high through well-structured programmes that put purposeful engagement with employers at their heart. This report shows that students facing the biggest barriers can and do benefit most from high quality support. Findings also illustrate that careers education works most powerfully when it takes hold right across school and college life, not just as an add on or discretionary activity. 

This sort of modern careers support is important for two reasons. It is a key part of an education that helps young people get ‘ready for work and ready for life.’ It is also a building block to help us meet our skills and productivity challenges. Bridging the gap between education and employment brings benefits to young people and employers alike. The former access a broader educational experience, the latter strengthen their talent pipelines.

In practice, when learners receive meaningful and flexible experiences with employers, they gain insight into what comes next and the skills required. A curriculum that connects classroom content to its applicability in the world of the work, builds motivation.

As I set out in my report for the Labour Party, the next stage is to ensure careers awareness training is a part of subject teachers’ professional development – broadening the support young people get. The entire education workforce has responsibility to raise aspirations and provide careers guidance. The development of subregional hubs is an excellent way of ensuring that expertise can be cascaded to where it's needed most. The role of mentors should also be explored, delivered via Careers Hubs to help young people build networks through positive role models.

More broadly, it is self-evident that restoring growth in our country and dramatically reducing inflation cannot be achieved without a transformation in the availability of a skilled workforce, with the adaptability and creativity to embrace technological change and innovative working practices. This must, surely, be seen not as a “nice to have”, but an imperative and therefore an investment in all our futures.

Young people are crucial to this vision. They are the future inventors, technicians, and scientists who will grow our economy and improve our productivity. With the right careers support, we can get more young people onto the right learning and skills pathways. That is why, at post-16 level, it is important that meaningful choices are available to enable young people to progress in whatever way is best for their particular circumstances and appropriate mode of learning. The recent Social Mobility Commission report is instructive here, reinforcing the importance of different routes to study and employment. As we help young people to exploit their talents and skills, we will also boost our economy.    

Read the full findings

Find out more about the national review of Careers Education in England in 2021/22.

Ready for the Future report