From education to employment

It’s time to recognise the vital role colleges play in careers education

Claudia Harris, Chief Executive of the Careers & Enterprise Company

Every time I speak to a college leader, I am struck by just how passionate they are about delivering great careers support for their students.

We have witnessed a steady improvement in Further Education (FE) careers provision in recent years, but there is still much more to be done. We want to do everything we can to help colleges in this mission.

A clear road map

The Government’s Careers Strategy gives us a recipe for how colleges and schools can deliver brilliant careers education to their students:

  • First, they need a senior individual that can take a strategic lead across their college or school.
  • Secondly, they need a set of clear standards to work towards, and a way of measuring themselves against those standards.
  • Finally, they need access to the network of employers and other organisations that can help them reach that high bar.

While this roadmap is broadly similar for schools and colleges, the challenges and opportunities in a further education setting are unique. But with a tendency to focus on schools, the debate about careers education hasn’t always reflected this.

That is why we are delighted over the last few months to have delivered a range of support and guidance just for colleges.

Supporting excellent careers leaders

We know that every college is different, and it is up to the college leadership to agree how careers should be led and managed. That is where the role of Careers Leaders come in.

Our guide Understanding the role off the Careers Leader: A guide for colleges, provides advice on how colleges can organise their careers leadership. This is based on government guidance and practical case studies of existing best practice in the sector.

This publication complements our new bespoke online training that is now available for individual careers leaders in colleges. We know it can be challenging for college staff to find the time to complete CPD, so we have developed this free online, 12-hour self-guided training programme which covers every aspect of the role.

Understanding what good looks like

Underpinning much of our support for colleges are the Gatsby Benchmarks – a framework of eight guidelines that define best practice in careers provision. They are an excellent model for colleges to use to assess how well they are doing and what they should be aiming for.

But colleges tell us that implementing the Gatsby Benchmarks in a FE setting presents its own set of challenges. That is why we have recently published a detailed explanation of the Benchmarks for a college setting, along with practical tips and examples in our toolkit for colleges.

Measuring success

To make this evaluation process easier, we have designed a college specific version of our Compass evaluation tool which is really quick and simple to use. We only launched this tool in September, but we’re thrilled that around two-thirds of colleges in England have already completed a self-assessment using Compass for Colleges.

While we are really pleased with this response over such a short space of time, we are obviously keen to encourage many more colleges around the country to participate and try out the tool.

Our recent State of the Nation 2018 report draws on data that has been collected through our existing Compass tool from over 3,000 schools and colleges (which includes 155 FE institutions).

Analysis from the report shows that on average colleges are meeting 2.10 benchmarks in the 18/19 academic year – and so clearly colleges are heading in the right direction but have a long way to go.


We have also armed FE practitioners with a more targeted publication on Careers Provision in Colleges: What Works?. This report provides evidence for effective career guidance within the FE sector. The evidence can be used by colleges of all types and providers of career and enterprise programmes when considering supporting young people with careers activities.

These activities and resources cover everything from career and labour market information, advice and guidance delivered by an in-house careers service; careers provision in the classroom supported through tutorials; employer engagement activities; and progression support for higher education or employment such as apprenticeships.

The publication also demonstrates how colleges have extremely diverse structures compared to schools, and this needs to be reflected in how their careers provision is organised – ultimately to ensure that we can prepare and inspire all young people for the fast-changing world of work.

Claudia Harris, Chief Executive of the Careers & Enterprise Company

To find out more about how the Careers & Enterprise Company can support your college, click here.

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