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What’s the future of careers education?

02 Mar 2022

Oli de Botton is the Chief Executive at The Careers & Enterprise Company. He was invited to give evidence to The Times Education Commission.

Last week I had the privilege of talking to The Times Education Commission about where careers education is now and where it might go next.

I was able highlight some of the incredible work happening in schools, colleges and businesses. I also tried to make the case for careers being an important part of a long-term plan for education - in the mainstream not at the margins.

When schools and colleges deliver high quality, social capital building, inclusive careers education everyone benefits. The most disadvantaged – who face more barriers and have fewer connections - benefit most. The outcome of this work? Young people ready for their next step with the right skills, a secure destination and the confidence to achieve their goals.

As a teacher, a Headteacher and now at the national body for careers education, I’ve built up some thoughts about how we can build on the progress made.


1. Careers Leaders, leading. Like anything durable in education, leadership matters. The growing power, seniority and sophistication of Careers Leaders gives rise to real optimism. The more time and resource Careers Leaders have, the better supported young people are. As a Headteacher, I worked with a full-time Careers Leader and their impact was felt across the school.


2. Teachers as part of the careers conversation. At it’s best careers education includes the wider staff body. This mirrors other important areas like safeguarding which are often well embedded and not left to one person, in one part of the school or college. As an English teacher I saw my classes five times a week. Through the relationships I built and the curriculum I delivered, I was passing on messages about possible futures for my students (implicitly as much as explicitly). So being deliberate about linking the curriculum to careers is important. Training for school staff so they are aware of different pathways  – particularly vocational ones they may not have experienced - is also critical.


3. Rigorous experiences of the workplace. There is a wide consensus about the importance of experiences of the workplace. Done well they open young people’s eyes and help build the skills employers are looking for. The best models use work-place experiences as opportunities for meaningful learning. Planned for, lengthened, and even certificated (BAE systems currently use the Engineering Development Trust to certificate their work experience). At School 21 I pursued an extended model – half a day for all of Year 10, instead of a ninth GCSE. If there is a place for teaching skills in schools, then employer experiences are a central part of that curriculum (and the assessment).


4. Employers moving from outreach to intake.  We need to keep bringing the world of education and the world of industry together, not least if we want young people to know about the different pathways to work like apprenticeships. To make this sustainable for employers, the work needs to be part of HR as well as CSR. The businesses who engage with schools and colleges for the long term know the value it brings. They appoint new apprentices. They inspire the next generation and they ensure the best join their sector. Over time our goal is to work with employers - large and small - so they have the evidence, standards and data to know that their outreach work is helping them build brilliant and diverse talent pipelines.


Oli de Botton, Chief Executive at The Careers & Enterprise Company

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