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 hadn’t 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 face-to-face guidance where needed.

The government’s new careers strategy, has at its heart four themes, the first of which is ensuring a ‘high-quality careers programme’ in all schools and colleges. This is to be achieved via the eight Gatsby benchmarks, each of which relate to an area of school activity, and define excellence in that area:

  1.  A stable careers programme
  2. Learning from career and labour market information
  3. Addressing the needs of each school student
  4. Linking curriculum learning (subjects) to careers
  5. Encounters with employers and the work environment
  6. Work experience
  7. Encounters with further and higher education
  8. Individual careers guidance

Other parts of the strategy include making employers an integral part of the guidance strategy, ensuring people can benefit from tailored support (i.e. individual careers guidance) and making the most of labour market information.

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

  • 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:

  1. Access to an adviser via phone, email, webchat or text. Students can request a call back if preferred
  2. A range of information via the NCS website, including:
  • job profiles covering specific career or work options 
  • a Find a Course option
  • a CV builder and help with the application/interview process
  • apprenticeship information
  • labour market information for different sectors
  • a skills health check (where students can explore their skills, interests or motivations)

Students using the NCS website information may then wish to seek further guidance from a careers adviser and/or via their school to discuss any options of interest.

The NCS is also available on Twitter (with live Q&A every Wednesday from 2-4 pm) and Facebook (Q&A Wednesdays 7-9 pm)

All young people in England are required to stay in education or training (full or part-time, or in an apprenticeship or traineeship) 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 (or 18 or over, if a Jobcentre Plus customer) they can have a face-to-face appointment with a local adviser. Contact the National Careers Service 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 also some 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 calls

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 access impartial and professional careers information, advice and guidance. This service is delivered by Careers Wales, the all Wales, all age, bi-lingual careers information, advice and guidance service. A range of information and online tools to help individuals to identify career choice options are available at the Careers Wales website.

Careers Wales works with the Welsh Government.


Skills Development Scotland provides career information, advice and guidance in schools and its centres across the country. Its work focuses on engaging with young people earlier in their education and supporting them through to their entry into sustained employment. The website My World of Work is designed to complement the work done in centres and schools across Scotland. Users can explore who they are, what jobs they’re best suited to and what opportunities are available.

Northern Ireland

Further Information

© Ellie Stevenson December 2017