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This week is National Careers Week, and we will be publishing our draft implementation plan in response to the Careers Strategy. This will be available on our website and we would welcome your feedback. Here we lay out some tips for schools and colleges on how best to approach responding to the strategy.

The government’s Careers Strategy was launched in December last year. We welcome this strategy and believe that it has the potential to supercharge careers provision in England.

We have been working on our implementation plan and would welcome your feedback on our draft before final publication in April. However, we thought it would also be helpful to lay out some of the implications for schools and colleges. Many of these come into force in September 2018.

There are three big implications for schools and college: (1) you need to develop a programme of good careers education and guidance that meets the standard set out in the Gatsby Benchmarks; (2) you need to ensure that all young people are receiving at least one encounter a year with an employer; and (3) you should appoint a Careers Leader to drive your school’s careers programme forward.

Priority 1 – meeting the Gatsby Benchmarks

The Gatsby Benchmarks are based on national and international best practice in careers. Three themes that recur in the Benchmarks are: (i) providing encounters with the world of work, and with higher and further education to bring the future to life; (ii) ensuring good information about how the curriculum links to careers and about the labour market; and (iii) helping young people to develop a careers plan suited to their passions and strengths.

Our research tells us that most schools in England are some way from meeting the Gatsby Benchmarks. We have worked with Gatsby to create Compass, a tool that schools can use to self-assess their performance against these benchmarks and create a development plan. As well as providing feedback to schools this also provides us anonymised national data which we can use to see how schools are doing across the country. This tool is currently designed for schools. However in the autumn we will be introducing a Compass for colleges, based on the new Gatsby Benchmarks for colleges which the Gatsby Charitable Foundation recently brought out.

Currently, the implementation of the Gatsby Benchmarks is patchy. However, our research highlights areas in which schools can quickly move forwards. Some are more tactical, like involving parents or starting careers provision at a younger age. Others are more strategic, like ensuring that careers is integrated into all subjects across the curriculum.

Five ways to get your school moving in the right direction identified in our State of the Nation research include:

  • Starting early (e.g. year 7).
  • Engaging all stakeholders, including parents and employers.
  • Updating your website with information about your careers programme.
  • Joining the Enterprise Adviser Network.
  • Completing Compass every year.

A further five more substantial initiatives to improve your programme include:

  • Developing careers content in all subjects, not just PSHE.
  • Taking advantage of labour market resources and make them available to all students and their parents.
  • Providing ALL students with information on ALL routes.
  • Providing experiences of workplaces for all students.
  • Adapting existing systems to track destinations and careers and enterprise activities.

Priority 2 – Give your students more encounters with employers

The Careers Strategy also sets out an expectation that schools will ensure a minimum of one encounter per year for all young people and two work placements. This builds on research from the Education and Employers Taskforce which shows that a young person who has four or more encounters with an employer is 86% less likely to be unemployed or out of education and training, and can earn more during their career. Many schools, colleges and independent learning providers are already delivering against this minimum, but the strategy raises the bar for all young people.

The Careers & Enterprise Company is here to help schools to meet this requirement, through our Enterprise Adviser Network, our online tools and through the employer engagement programmes that we fund.

Priority 3 – Appoint a careers leader

In recent years The Gatsby Foundation, the Career Development Institute and Teach First have all identified the importance of a Careers Leader. A Careers Leader is a person with links to or on the SLT who has responsibility for leading and managing the school’s careers programme and delivering against the Gatsby Benchmarks. This includes managing the links with employers, further and higher education, and the integration of that programme across age groups and into the curriculum. They are also responsible for tracking young people’s destinations once they leave school or college. We have provided further guidance on what Careers Leaders do. The Careers Strategy requires schools to have a named Careers Leader in place by September 2018.

The Careers Strategy makes funding available for 500 schools for the training and development of careers leaders. Our draft Implementation Plan provides an overview of how this will be allocated, and full details will be published in April.

Final words

The Careers Strategy offers us the opportunity to transform careers provision in England and make it the best in the world. We are already starting to see big improvements, and from September we expect this to accelerate. Schools and colleges will be at the forefront of leading this change. We are looking forward to working with you to help improve the career prospects of all young people as we implement the strategy together.