Ellie Stevenson. Careers Writers Association

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Getting Help with Careers: where to start  

In the past, in England, you could assume your child would be seen by a careers adviser, in a school setting, to talk about choices, usually in year 10 or 11. This is not necessarily the case now.

The 2011 Education Act made schools (and colleges) responsible for securing access to independent careers guidance for young people aged 13-18 (in England).

Ofsted’s 2013 report, Going in the Right Direction?, showed that while some schools had responded well to the new directive, many had not and needed to improve. The government has since produced statutory guidance and advice to support schools. But what does this mean for you as a parent?

It means the provision of careers guidance will vary with the school. Schools are required to supplement in-house provision with external sources of careers support, which could include careers advisers, employers or mentors working with the school. Together, these people must provide information on training and education alternatives for young people, including via face-to-face guidance where needed.

As a parent, you’d be advised to talk to the school and find out exactly what support is available.

  • Is there a careers education programme?
  • Is there face-to-face careers guidance for students, and if so, when does this occur?  
  • Do students have access to impartial information and advice on a broad range of options, including apprenticeships and vocational routes as well as further study and university?
  • Will your child have work experience or placement opportunities with local employers? Will employers visit and talk to students?
  • Is there individual mentoring and support for those who need it?  
  • How can students access information about choices and jobs, and what training is available in researching these options?
  • Does the school work to avoid stereotyping, ensuring both girls and boys receive information on the widest possible range of careers?

What else can you do?  Encourage your child to think about the future.  

In 2012, the government established the National Careers Service (NCS). This doesn’t offer face-to-face guidance for young people, but it does provide the following options:

  • Access to an adviser via phone, email, text or webchat. Students can request a call back if preferred and there are forums if students want to chat with each other  
  • A range of information via the NCS website, including:
    • a skills health check (where students can identify their interests, strengths and motivations)
    • job profiles covering specific career or work options
    • information on courses and qualifications including links to relevant websites
    • a CV builder and help with the application/interview process
    • apprenticeship information
    • labour market information for different sectors

Young people are encouraged to set up a Lifelong Learning Account, where they can maintain a record of their site activities.

The NCS is working to develop more resources for young people, for example a mobile website suitable for internet-enabled mobiles and tablet devices.

The NCS is also available on Twitter (Mon-Fri 9 am-5:30 pm) and Facebook.

The government has raised the participation age, meaning all young people in England are required to stay in education or training until their 18th birthday. But what if your child is over 18 and needs careers advice?

They can still use the National Careers Service and the NCS website, as above.

If your child lives in England and is 19 or over (18 or over if a Jobcentre Plus customer) they can have a face-to-face appointment with a local adviser. Contact the NCS to book an appointment (tel. 0800 100 900).

If seeking work, they can contact Jobcentre Plus for details of the local Jobcentre, information on benefits and a link to Universal Jobmatch.

Through Universal Jobmatch they can search for full and part-time jobs in Great Britain and abroad (see other job seeking sites below).

Finally, don’t be hesitant in asking what’s available for your son or daughter. It’s their future and they will want to make the most of any opportunities.

Further Information

National Careers Service (England)

Open 8 am to 10 pm, seven days a week.

Tel. 0800 100 900

Exploring Skills, Interests and Motivations

Careers Information


Courses and Learning

Going to University and the alternatives

Job Seeking Skills

Job Seeking


All 14-19 learners are entitled to specialist careers advice and guidance, which is provided by qualified Careers Wales advisers and delivered through the Learning Core and Careers and the World of Work Framework in schools and colleges. Find out more at Careers Wales.


Skills Development Scotland is Scotland’s national skills agency and the key provider of careers services, including all-age careers services. See My World of Work.

Northern Ireland

nidirect provides a wide range of goverment services including all-age advice and guidance throughout Northern Ireland. See How the Careers Service can help you.

See Useful websites for other regions

Further Information

Barnes, A. Ofsted Inspection of Careers Advice in Schools, Parental Guidance [website], 2014

Department for Education. Careers Guidance and Inspiration in Schools: statutory guidance for governing bodies, school leaders and school staff, 2014

Department for Education. Careers Guidance and Inspiration in Schools: departmental advice for governing bodies, school leaders and school staff, 2014

Ofsted. Going in the Right Direction? 2013

© Ellie Stevenson January 2016