Career Colleges will set their 14-year-old learners off on the path of a career with the aim of getting them into a job anywhere from the ages of 16 to 19, explains Ruth Gilbert.


As a previous college principal who has spent the last ten years working on quality improvement and business turnaround in FE, I know that there is no single approach or solution to the provision of appropriate and inspirational vocational education.

We are operating in an education system with many different options for parents and learners to navigate.

Grades and league tables play a huge part in decisions on which institution is chosen by parents of young people.

However, I believe FE could and should more strongly emphasise outcomes for learners in terms of work and progression to higher education. We know that success on a course is not a ticket to success in work and life.

In the UK, employers in a variety of industries tell us that graduates and job applicants completing FE are ill-prepared for the world of work.

Employers will be the driving force behind this unique and highly innovative model
of education

We have one million young people unemployed and yet we have vacancies across a wide range of industries and employers, with some significant growth and work opportunities.

This is a situation that needs to be addressed and is the inspiration behind Lord Baker’s vision for a new type of education for 14 to 19-year-olds.

Starting on a career path at the age of 14, just as they do in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, gives learners a headstart in preparing for the world of work. In these countries, youth unemployment is much lower and vocational education is far more respected.

This vision formed the basis for a new charity, the Career Colleges Trust which is supported by trustees from the Edge Foundation, Helping Hands, City & Guilds, OCR and Pearson.

The chairman is Luke Johnson, the serial entrepreneur, best known for putting Pizza Express on the map, previous chairman of Channel 4, and a range of businesses past and present in hospitality and catering, including Patisserie Valerie, Gail’s and Giraffe.

Specialist industry involvement is intrinsic to the Career College vision.

While FE colleges will establish their own Career Colleges, employers will be the driving force behind this unique and highly innovative model of education, ensuring that learners are prepared for the world of work, with skills to match the needs of the labour market.

Industry partners will play a major part in the design and delivery of the curriculum. FE colleges are the ideal partner and sponsor for these new institutions as they already have strong vocational expertise and can provide access to specialist facilities, strong infrastructure, enrichment and support services. The Career Colleges Trust will support FE colleges with best practice in curriculum planning and delivery, IT infrastructure, student tracking and support systems.

Career College specialisms will cover a range of sectors, including catering, hospitality, tourism, finance and insurance, health and care, cultural and creative arts, and construction.

Students will still study traditional academic subjects, including maths, English and science, alongside these vocational and industry specialisms.

Integral to the curriculum will be practical opportunities to develop the social skills and commercial acumen to prepare the young people for employment and self-employment.

The first Career College is expected to open in September, in Oldham. It will be a digital and creative Career College.

That will soon be followed by the Bromley Food & Enterprise Career College, because hospitality is the third largest sector for jobs in South East London.

There are many more proposals for a variety of Career Colleges around the country.

We hope that within four years, we will have 40 Career Colleges open, supporting at least 25,000 young people; to broaden their horizons and prepare them for work.

The over-arching goal for a Career College is that every young person when they leave at either 16 or 19 will be in work, training or education. I am confident that this will happen and that Career Colleges will help to raise esteem of vocational education in general.


Ruth Gilbert, chief executive,
Career Colleges Trust