From education to employment

Reform of careers guidance vital says Minister Lyons as he looks to the future of Northern Ireland’s economy

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons has welcomed the publication of an independent review into the careers guidance provided by the Department for the Economy.

Commissioned in early December 2021 and carried out by world-renowned expert in careers and skills Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, the review examined current careers provision, international best practice and innovative approaches in improving the delivery of careers guidance to young people and adults.

Speaking after the publication of the review, the Minister said:

“Sound careers advice is the foundation to a thriving economy and it is essential Northern Ireland has the skilled workforce that underpins my Department’s 10X Economic Vision.

“There is considerable interest in the need to reform the careers guidance system here. As the world of work continues to evolve and the skills needed change with it, it is vital we take steps to ensure people of all ages have access to the support needed to make informed career decisions.

“I want to thank Dr Hughes and also over 4,000 of you, from across a range of stakeholders, who came forward to share your thoughts and contribute to the research.”

The Minister added:

“Dr Hughes’s report has highlighted there is a significant mismatch between the career aspirations of young people and the skills needs of employers. In addition, people of all ages need more support to upskill and take advantage of the opportunities available in growing and emerging sectors of greatest economic importance. I have therefore asked officials to bring forward plans outlining how recommendations from the report can be taken forward, and in the meantime progress a number of initiatives that have already started, including the development of a careers and skills portal; the introduction of a blended service delivery model ensuring young people and their parents can access they help they need; and better targeting of individuals of all ages to raise participation levels amongst underrepresented groups.”

Commenting on the review of careers provision, Chair of the Careers Advisory Forum (CAF) Judith Gillespie said:

“I welcome the publication of this important report and associated recommendations. The Careers Advisory Forum has been calling for a number of the recommendations outlined in the report to be implemented. We particularly welcome the recommendation to develop a standalone careers and skills portal that could play an important role in connecting the full range of stakeholders to the changing needs of the economy. The CAF looks forward to working with the Department in the coming months as we consider further the recommendations outlined.”


The review makes 15 recommendations which broadly fall within 3 key themes – services to young people, service to adults, and digitalisation.

Young People

Primary school children, parents, and teachers – the need to ensure that careers related learning starts much earlier; is informed by the future needs of the economy and encourages children to broaden their career ideas and to raise aspiration.  
Careers guidance in post-primary schools – recognising that schools and Area Learning Communities are well- placed to decide what works best for their pupils, allowing more flexibility and accountability to deliver against an agreed set of common standards, principles and pupil outcomes, informed by international best practice.


Significant opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of skills development over a lifetime – through better regional and local collaboration, combining place-based and e-enabled approaches, maximising existing resources available through  HE, FE, community/third sector providers, City Deals and local Labour Market Partnerships.


World-class digital and blended approaches to careers support services – a much greater focus on providing better resources and cutting age self-help tools online, allowing for better targeting of those, of all ages, who need more intensive face to face support.

Next Steps

It is important to state that this is an independent report and, at this stage, no policy or operational decisions have been made with regard to the report’s recommendations, some of which are cross cutting. Policy and operational decisions that directly result from the review must await a new Executive in Stormont.

You can view the full report, Executive Summary and International Exemplars at:
Transforming careers support for young people and adults in Northern Ireland

  1. The Department for the Economy provides access to careers guidance for people of all ages and has a statutory duty to provide this on an impartial basis and in the best interests of the person receiving the guidance.
  2. The independent review into careers provision within the Department was carried out by Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE and Chris Percy (Economist, DMH Associates). Dr Hughes is a policy adviser, academic researcher/writer, trainer and freelance consultant specialising in the impact of careers, employment and skills policies to support the development of jobs and growth. She has carried out research reviews across the world and recently in Wales for Careers Wales and the Welsh Government and for Skills Development Scotland.
  3. Full details of the Northern Ireland report can be found on the Department’s website – Independent Review of Careers Guidance

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