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A Universal Careers Offer: From 3 -18

A world class, professionally led aligned and flexible system of CIAG which delivers for every citizen.

Scotland's Careers Strategy: Moving Forward

To realise this commitment in Scotland’s Careers strategy requires a paradigm shift in the school system. It requires we move from an assumption that careers education happens consistently in secondary schools to a clear understanding that it is for all young people as part of their learning journey from 3-18. 

Those that need the most support report being well-served throughout secondary school; those identified as needing less support tell us they’re less satisfied with the career education support they receive. This support tends to be episodic in nature – focused around transition points rather than embedded into the learning experience.

Through its Young Person’s Guarantee commitments, the Scottish Government has asked SDS to “consider how best a careers service could operate from early years right through until a young person enters employment.”

SDS recognises it can’t achieve this goal on its own.  To ensure young people are ready for the opportunities or challenges which are there for them when they leave school, Career Education must be built into all four contexts for learning (as defined by Curriculum for Excellence) at nursery, primary and secondary schools and delivered by teachers, education staff and partners in strong collaboration with SDS colleagues.


Children and young people need to have a thorough understanding of their skills, strengths, and talents. This has to start in nursery and primary schools. We then must widen their horizons to ensure they are aware of the vast, exciting, and ever-changing employment and learning opportunities which are there for them and, to which of those they will be best suited. This has to happen when young people are still at primary school or else it won’t happen.

Young people need multiple and sustained opportunities to develop their skills throughout education, that help them in understanding the world of work. This is a learning journey which continues right through the Broad General Education and it is for all young people. This needs to be backed up by an assessment process which helps young people be aware they are making this journey and how they are developing through it. 

This universal journey provides a foundation and a context for more targeted career education information advice and guidance in the senior phase where they have to make those critical decisions about their next steps. It is a jigsaw of activity which enables all young people to make the right initial step when they leave school but equips them for the career decisions they have to make thereafter.

There have been a range of national commitments to this approach. The Curriculum for Excellence entitles young people to develop “skills for learning, life and work”. The Careers Education Standard also states that “Children and young people will be entitled to experience a curriculum through which they learn about the world of work and job possibilities and which makes clear the strengths and skills needed to take advantage of these opportunities.”

There has also been some great progress and there is excellent work in schools across the country. In my own local authority, over 2,000 primary teachers have taken part in professional development activity on how to implement the BGE in the primary classroom.

That is a crucial issue.

To develop on this commitment to high quality careers education for all children and young people, we must streamline the expectations of education staff.

They need clarity of role and then we need to strategically develop them to deliver that newly clarified role. I believe we have not done this sufficiently so far. The expectations and entitlements in the Careers Standard were too wide ranging and the CPD activity for staff was not concerted or sustained to the required level. If we are going to deliver on this for all young people, we need staff in all schools with clarity about the task and confidence they have the skills to deliver on it.

The review of Curriculum for Excellence provides a context for us to get an approach to the curriculum within which this universal learner experience can be planned. It is incumbent on us to maximise the opportunities presented by the current reform discussions, and get the curriculum right.

By doing that, we can provide the foundation on which we can build well designed partnerships with services across the system and employers. These will enhance the journey with exciting work based learning and informed advice and guidance from which all young people will benefit.

Bringing this together will provide a universal entitlement to careers education which will enable us to meet the second aspect of the vision of the Careers Strategy: “Where citizens can expect a high standard of support that meets their need when they need it most.

It requires a system that is fully interconnected to ensure citizens can access the right people and services, including employability and skills support.”

And it needs to help young people develop the skills and confidence to take their place in society and have a great future which is worthy of them. This is a commitment that the Career Review and its final recommendations need to provide a clear pathway towards.

Looking for more information?

Find out more about the Career Review