It’s that time of year again when young people have received their anxiously awaited A levels results and are considering what their results could mean for their next step. This is a key transition point for a large proportion of young people and seems a good time to reflect on the quality of the information, advice, and guidance they have received at school to help them decide on their future educational and workplace destinations.

Careers advice and guidance in England has been in a state of flux for quite a long time. In 2013 Ofsted released a damning report on the state of careers advice in England’s schools, finding that only one-fifth of schools visited were effective in ensuring that students received the ‘level of information, advice and guidance they needed to support decision making’. Whilst a review by the Commons Education Select Committee announced in July 2014, that “it was clear to [the Committee] that careers advice in schools was not improving.”

The Careers and Enterprise Company – set up in 2015 – has made considerable headway since the publication of these two reviews. However, there is still a considerable way to go as highlighted recently by a new alliance of four career organisations – The Career Management Quality Alliance (CMQA). Frustrated by continued delays to the long awaited Careers Strategy – which was first announced in 2015 by then Education Minister, Sam Gyimah, who stated that they would publish a careers strategy “in the coming weeks” – the alliance has come together to urge the Government to expedite its publication and propose the key elements that should be included in the strategy.

The CMQA’s position statement sets out 12 key elements which aim at improving the quality, reach and accessibility of careers management services in the UK. This set of principles have much to commend them, particularly the need for the strategy to:

  • “set out a vision that support for career management should be available to everyone throughout life, and it should pay equal attention to services for young people and for adults”
  • “focus… on both enabling individuals to develop the skills and qualities needed to plan and manage their own careers (commonly referred to as ‘career management and employability skills’) and providing access to personal career guidance at times when it is needed”.

We know the vast majority of the workforce of 2030 are already in employment, and the ageing workforce and the impact of new technology on jobs and the labour market mean that people increasingly need to be able to upskill and reskill at different stages in their working lives. This means that it is essential that we equip both adults and young people with the skills to manage and plan their careers, as well as access to quality career guidance to make informed decisions about their future options. High quality information, advice and guidance is absolutely key to shaping learner demand and career choices, better aligning them with the current and future requirements of the labour market.

Hopefully, the new Careers Strategy will address these challenges and deliver a careers guidance system that works for everyone. However, whilst we – and others such as the newly formed CMQA – eagerly await its publication there is much that employers, and the HR profession, can do now to help young people build the skills and knowledge they need to transition from education to the workplace successfully.

These include, reaching out to local schools and colleges to help bridge the gap between education and business, providing high quality work experience opportunities that will give young people the insight and skills they need to work in your industry, looking for opportunities to make recruitment practices within your organisation as youth-friendly as possible. You can also get involved by becoming an Enterprise Adviser. Enterprise Advisors are senior business volunteers, who are matched with a school or college to provide local labour market insight and advice on how to connect to other local employers. CIPD members interested in volunteering can register their interest at

About the author

Lizzie Crowley, Senior Policy Adviser - Skills

Lizzie is a policy and research professional with over 13 years’ experience in the employment and skills arena, having worked with both the public and private sector to develop high-quality research to inform organisational practice, public policy and shape the public debate.

Prior to joining the CIPD Lizzie led The Work Foundation's research and policy development on the youth labour market – and has published a number of influential reports on youth unemployment. She has regularly appeared on national and regional TV and radio, including BBC Breakfast, BBC the One Show, the Today Programme and Channel 4 news. Lizzie graduated in Sociology and has a master's degree in Social Science Research Methods, both from the University of Glasgow.

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