Creating a stronger fairer society

Laura Bell

Laura Bell is Director for Careers at Education Development Trust as well as President of the Career Development Institute. She inputs into government policy and translates that policy to our operational contracts. Here she comments on the work we need to do in careers in the UK.

The launch of the new national careers strategy by Anne Milton  provides new impetus for all of us involved in delivering the National Careers Service. Education Development Trust (formerly as CfBT) has worked in this sector for 20 years and is one of only two National Careers Service contractors to be awarded Ofsted outstanding in 2017. The job market and the way people get into work has changed considerably over that period. Managing the transition to the online world, working fleet of foot in 'real time' combined with in-depth knowledge of our regions, opening up new opportunities for employees who have worked all their lives in heavy industry and young people starting out uncertain of the choices they can make – the richness of our roles in careers is truly rewarding.

The new careers strategy places great emphasis on providing services suited to and accessible by everyone whatever their age and background, with a clear focus on helping to drive social mobility. November saw the publication of the government's modern industrial strategy, 'building a Britain fit for the future by investing in the development of skills to meet the changing needs of business'. Our role as careers advisers in the very different north-east and south-central regions of England has brought us valuable insight into the transitions that individuals and companies need to make to adapt to the demands that increasing technologisation of working life – and quite frankly, just life – are bringing. Our role is to understand the demands, but convert those to opportunities for our clients.

No one-size-fits-all solution

What we have found, during our years of engaging with schools, jobseekers and employers, is that the key to successful outcomes is our highly skilled careers advisers having a clear understanding of the effect that all of the key influencers have on our clients – who are all individuals. In this mix is their home background, their education, their exposure to working life to date, all of which in turn influence their aspirations and their self-belief. Clients come to us in different states of readiness, and while we cannot claim to completely level out the playing field, we certainly do our utmost to maximise their own chances of success.

Within the school setting however, the challenges are perhaps still more difficult. While the aims of the new strategy are laudable, we have found from our work in schools that there is inevitably a dilution effect where school careers’ leaders, however well intentioned, simply do not have the access to the range of labour market information and  employer relationships embedded in a centralised career perspective that would allow them to deliver the level of service required to meet the objectives set out in the 2017 national careers strategy. Our work at Education Development Trust in the schools setting, including linking pupils with employers that really suit their future aspirations, shows us daily how finely tuned this process needs to be.

Providing that 'safe setting' for students and the employed and unemployed, that allows for both guided and self exploration of career choices for all, is what this strategy aims to deliver. With the right support from professionals in guidance, education and employment, we will be on the way to that fairer, stronger society.