Social mobility rests on realising the vision of all-age careers provision

A single unified careers system can catalyse social justice and ensure employers and individuals can fulfil their ambitions

A single unified careers system can catalyse social justice and ensure employers and individuals can fulfil their ambitions

Baroness Morgan of Cotes

13 Jan 2024, 5:00

This year the government will publish its Action Plan for Careers for young people and adults – an all-age careers system. It is a plan that will need to reflect these complex times of fast and frequent technological and workplace change, and respond to wider skills challenges.

It will also need to ensure people have the support they need, not just to be ready for the jobs of today and tomorrow, but in developing the career management skills to navigate the world of work over their lifetime.

Sir John Holman’s nine strategic principles provide a roadmap for the future and highlight the opportunities to further integrate services into a unified system.

The next steps are about evolution, not revolution. As last year’s education select committee report on careers confirmed, there is consensus that the right framework is in place (led nationally and tailored locally), that positive progress in provision is improving outcomes, and on the importance of building on the strong and established evidence base of what works.  

As chair of the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) and an ambassador for the Skills and Education Group Foundation, I am committed to social justice and increased social mobility and I recognise the huge role modern careers support across all ages can play in that. The need for careers guidance doesn’t end at the age of 18.  

A single unified careers system, rich with skills, training and workplace experiences can catalyse social justice and ensure employers and individuals – young people and adults – can fulfil and raise their ambitions.

This will not be a one-size-fits-all but a multi-layered system, not least because the evidence shows the greatest impact on outcomes is when multiple ingredients are combined with each other over a sustained period and with continued focus on raising quality.

The next steps are about evolution, not revolution

It also needs to be a system that prioritises the need to connect the right people with the right opportunities for them. One that considers what that person would actually like to do and where their talent can flourish.

We need to recognise that a job provides more than financial income. It also provides self-respect, purpose and a place in the local community and wider society.

Public investment in recent years, in pre-18 careers education, offers a useful template for what integration could look like for an all-age system. In practice features include:

  • A coherent infrastructure – founded on national oversight toenableaccountability, consistency and quality, and supported by a strong regional network of Careers Hubs to ensure that vital partnerships between the education sector, employers, providers, local and mayoral authorities
  • Leadership, standards and data – informed by digital tools like employer standards which help business focus their work with schools and colleges and create the impact they are looking for
  • Employers at the centre – collaborating through careers hubs to shape local skills strategies to sector priorities and market need, helping to streamline transitions into and between jobs. Companies engaging with real purpose in the careers system report positive business benefits, boosting applications for apprenticeships and jobs and closing skills gaps.
  • Mobilising resources and targeted support – quality assurance of resources, support and providers will increase confidence and efficiencies across the careers system and among employers and help target and tailor individual support for each and every learner journey, drawing on the strength of frontline institutions such as colleges who are already providing a lot of careers support to young people and adults.     

With the Lifelong Learning Entitlement launching in 2025, we also need to ensure people know how to engage and maximise its benefits.

It is vital we support both young people and adults to make the most of their talents as they start on and progress through their employment journey. We must do everything we can to empower and enable them to make informed choices and take their best next step.

Nicky Morgan is a guest on episode 6 of the latest series of Let’s Go Further, the podcast from the Skills and Education Group.

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One comment

  1. I love articles like this explaining how far we’ve come and the progress that has been made.

    When you think about how pretty much every measure of social mobility and wealth inequality has worsened for decades it helps to highlight how little understanding there is of how to improve it.

    The irony is that the topic is so ripe for understanding that it’s an area that will support much research, many degrees, masters and even doctorates. Many of which will be funded by loans (a key factor of baked in systematic numerical disadvantage). Would likening the situation to Stockholm Syndrome be metaphor or simile… Discuss.