Sam Gyimah: where next for careers education and guidance?

The Education and Childcare Minister talks to the Westminster Employment Forum about the government's vision for careers education.

Sam Gyimah MP

It’s a real pleasure for me to be here today.

I am here because, like you, I am passionate about transforming the life chances of young people across our country, and making sure they all get a fair shot.

And I am pleased that my presence here today reflects the Department for Education’s renewed interest in careers, which has not always been constant in the past. I want to stress that careers is a key priority for the Secretary of State, Nicky Morgan, and I am delighted to be the minister leading on this area.

Because young people need to understand the costs and benefits of different options and have the knowledge to make the right choices for themselves, based on a real understanding of their own talents, skills and interests.

To get young people to the stage where they can take such a long-term, considered view about their futures - and not opt for the most immediate and easily available choice - takes a long-term and concerted effort from all the individuals and organisations who interact with them.

You’ve had the opportunity today to hear from a range of excellent speakers on how to do just that - to deliver a high-quality, inspirational programme of careers education and guidance that will support every young person to take control of their own future and to make the most of their abilities.

Our strategy and vision

I recently spoke at the Careers Education and Guidance Summit, where I outlined the Department for Education’s plan to publish a comprehensive careers strategy in the coming weeks.

This strategy will ensure that teachers, careers professionals and employers know what the department expects of them.

And, equally, that parents and pupils know what they can expect from their schools.

We feel that a period of consistency and stability for this sector will have greater impact than major structural reform. And what you can expect to see over the coming weeks and months is consistent and clear messages coming from government about the importance of good careers education and guidance, and the expectation that this is an integral part of what good schools do.

We want to create a system that connects schools to the world of work and enables young people to make informed choices about their futures. Because one young person on the wrong early career path, who as a result is not able to fulfil their true potential, is one too many.

By 2020 we want a system where young people (and their parents/carers) have timely access to the information and data they need to make informed decisions on their education, training and employment options, including a clear understanding of routes into technical and professional education and apprenticeships.

A system where all schools provide consistently high-quality careers support, in line with their statutory obligations, including more employer engagement and work experience opportunities. And this does not have to be traditional work experience, where young people risk spending a week or 2 in an office making tea and running errands. The best schools are increasingly making use of work insight days, work experience that runs for one afternoon a week over a whole year, or employers coming into schools to run lessons that link directly to the curriculum.

A system where employers work closely with schools to shape their approach to careers support and their provision of this.

And where careers providers deliver high-quality, independent and impartial advice and guidance as part of a multi-faceted, integrated careers strategy.

Together, this will ensure that every young person - regardless of their background - has the information, exposure and support to make the right choices, and to fulfil their potential.

Key milestones

This means ensuring that there is support for young people throughout their time in education, and especially at key transition points when they are making important choices.

At the end of primary school this means developing an emerging awareness that people have different jobs and a belief that in the future they will work - this is particularly important for children from workless households. It means making a connection between what is taught in school and what career path they will take in the future.

This understanding contributes to a motivation to do well, based on realising the importance of basic skills including literacy and numeracy for all types of careers.

At age 14, when facing GCSE choices (within the EBacc framework) this means developing an understanding of the routes that will be available to them in the future. And of the link between school learning and the world of work. For some, this will include a decision about whether to move to a UTC or studio school.

At age 16, this means receiving the required support in making key decisions about their KS5 route and subjects, based on a strong understanding of how this influences subsequent choice of careers, especially the link between attainment and career prospects.

And finally, at age 18, having the tools, skills and knowledge to make an informed decision about the next stage of education, training or work, which young people stick with. If young people are able to make the right choice initially, this will reduce the number of dropouts and reduce NEETs. For those entering work, it is crucial to understand what skills and behaviours employers value.


The support young people get comes from a range of sources. We need to ensure that all of these sources provide high-quality careers education and guidance.

Parents are a major influence on pupils of all ages, but sometimes lack knowledge about certain options and the implications of different choices.

We understand the huge role that parents and carers play in young people’s lives - and we want to ensure that all parents are equipped to point young people in the right direction to find the advice that they need.

Schools also have a key role to play. Our main challenge is to change schools’ behaviour and spread the message that careers is a crucial part of learning and not just an add on, or something to be addressed once a school has the right grades, and the right Ofsted result. Many schools are doing amazing work already, but we want this to be present in every school.

Careers providers will continue to deliver a vital service. We have seen from the Gatsby benchmarks that even with advancing technology and the abundance of careers provision now available online, there is still a role to play for personal guidance at certain transition points.

And, of course, employers. Many organisations are already running impressive engagement programmes.

Indeed, I met with Barclays just the other week to hear about their successful [Lifeskills campaign] 9https://www.barclayslifeskills.com/) - equipping young people with the skills they need to be successful in the workplace and the employment market. The Careers and Enterprise Company should have a major impact on engaging employers, and I know you heard from Claudia [Harris, CEO of the Careers and Enterprise Company] earlier about the great work they are doing. But we still need to do more in this space.

The careers ecosystem is complex, and, at present, careers provision is not working as well as it should. This has a direct impact on the prospects of young people. And this is why we need to do more.

Our challenge

We know what good careers education and guidance at school level looks like, but there is no ‘magic bullet’ - our solution needs to address the different system drivers and ensure that the incentives line up.

The challenge is to make good careers support a priority for the education system, especially for schools.

And we as a government will deploy the full range of levers at our disposal - legislation, funding, accountability, guidance, communications, data and so forth - to support and challenge the system to deliver more effectively. But we absolutely cannot do this alone.

We need you - teachers, school leaders, careers professionals, employers and parents - to get on board and help the careers ecosystem to thrive.

I thank you for the hard work you have done so far. And I look forward to the successes we will make together in the future.

Thank you for having me here today.

Published 3 December 2015