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

When it comes to careers, too many children have the cards stacked against them

Teach First's latest report reveals sobering data about the current state of careers education in the UK. In this blog post, Oli de Botton, Chief Executive at the Careers & Enterprise Company, shares his thoughts on why careers education needs to start early and how businesses can better support schools.

High-quality careers education helps young people overcome barriers. It opens up pathways based on aspiration and aptitude rather than circumstance and stereotypes. It develops the skills needed to thrive in the workplace. It provides connections with employers that build confidence and social capital.

As the latest research from the Careers and Enterprise Company points out, this is critical for disadvantaged young people who battle the odds and may not have access to the same networks as their  peers.

Careers education is improving

Thanks to the hard work of schools, colleges and employers there has been significant progress in the development of high-quality careers education in recent years.

The growing influence, seniority and sophistication of Careers Leaders is proof of this. So is the number of teachers inspiring young people by building careers into the curriculum and showing the practical application of the subjects they teach. And we’re now seeing more young people positive about their understanding of careers as they go through school.

But there is more to do. Teach First's latest report Rethinking careers education: investing in our country's future focuses on some important areas for improvement.

The role of employers in careers education

As the report highlights, making sure young people have access to employers is crucial. This message is echoed in a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which showed  the more direct contact with business students have, the more employable they become.

At its best, employer engagement helps young people make connections, gain real-world experience and explore future options. But there is a benefit in the here and now too.  Through well planned employer encounters, we can assess how the skills we’re trying to teach in school translate in practice.

When I was a headteacher, we pursued an extended work experience model – half a day a week for all of Year 10, instead of a ninth GCSE. During that process, businesses were able to give us feedback on the skills we were seeking to develop – skills like verbal communication, teamwork and resilience.

There are benefits for employers too. Working in schools is not just corporate social responsibility, but an opportunity to support and learn about their future workforce. With employers expressing concern about the work readiness of young people, there’s even more reason for them to work with the sector and help equip young people with the skills and experiences they need.

Start careers education early

Teach First's report is another timely reminder of the importance of building careers support as early as possible into young people’s education.

We know from our work, the earlier we engage with young people, the earlier we can challenge stereotypes. And although brilliant careers education looks different at primary than secondary, the outcomes are the same. Young people inspired and optimistic about their futures.

Careers education makes a difference

High-quality careers education makes a difference, especially to the lives of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. We have made progress in recent years, but there is more to do. By starting early and with the support of more businesses we can give young people the skills and experiences they need to thrive in tomorrow’s workplace.


Read report (PDF)

In life, you only play the hand you’re dealt. But when it comes to careers, for too many children from disadvantaged backgrounds the cards are stacked against them. Learn more about why we need to rethink careers education and invest in our country's future.

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