OBE, CEO & Director, Scottish Chambers of Commerce

Dr Liz Cameron OBE, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, writes about the importance of involving the business community in shaping a new careers eco-system.

When I was asked to take part in the independent review of Scotland's careers services, I grasped the opportunity. With a network of 30 local chambers nationwide, the Scottish Chambers Network represents the whole breadth of the business community covering all sizes, sectors, and geographies.

Every one of our 12,500 members relies on fresh talent to support their growth. A high-performing careers service is crucial to this supply of talent, keeping people informed of the roles and industries in Scotland.

It is therefore essential that employers play a key role in this Career Review process and supporting people’s career choices.

An active role for employers

Whether it’s through graduate recruitment, work experience, apprenticeships or other forms of employment, tens of thousands of Scottish employers actively support young people’s career aspirations.

But historically employers have too often been passive ‘consumers’ of the system, rather than a core or fundamental part of informing and influencing it. 

And the consistent feedback from employers trying to engage with young people through the education system is that it’s complex and challenging to navigate.

In recent years, the Developing the Young Workforce strategy has sought to strengthen the links between industry and education, with significant progress made at a local and national level.

And through its Young Person’s Guarantee, Government has highlighted the importance of an employer-led approach to supporting economic recovery for young people.

However, as we consider the future of our career services in Scotland, it’s critical that we place businesses at the heart of career decision making.

Whether that’s in the formative years of education through employer engagement within our primary schools, or through responsive in-career support that empowers employers to upskill and retrain their existing staff.

Learning from other nations

Taking an evidence-led approach, the early stages of the Career Review have focused around understanding what’s working and what needs to improve to better support career choices.

In addition to capturing the views of employers through a wide consultation process, the Career Review has considered evidence and best practice from other countries around the world.

And employer engagement is a common theme in a range of high performing countries. 

These include Austria, where a strong vocational education system is underpinned by sustained real life encounters with employers throughout the education system, including work placements and conversations with employers and employees.

The review has also taken learning from Estonia and Singapore, where respective governments have taken action to strengthen links between schools, employers, and tertiary education organisations.

A key lesson from these and other nations is that businesses need the right support and the offer of a real seat at the table. Where that exists, we see more productive and supportive career decision making.

"As a small nation that has a proud history of punching above our weight, we need to ensure that our education and skills system is much more directly aligned to the demands of employers."

Dr Liz Cameron OBE, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce

Responsive careers support

Businesses across Scotland are right now grappling with an unprecedented rate of change in their operating environment. The joint impact of COVID-19 and Brexit have caused major skills shortages in a wide range of sectors.

But even before the COVID-19 crisis, it was clear that the world of work was changing. We’re moving into a fourth industrial revolution, driven by technological disrupters including robotics, big data, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence.

And even before Brexit we were grappling with challenging demographics; an aging general population and a shrinking pool of working-age adults.

These changes have significant implications for how we live and work, what skills we require to thrive, and how we learn those skills.

‘Meta-skills’ such as critical thinking and problem solving increasingly top the list of skills employers believe will grow in prominence in the next five years. 

As a small nation that has a proud history of punching above our weight, we need to ensure that our education and skills system is much more directly aligned to the demands of employers.

The role of business

It’s clear that an effective modern careers ecosystem needs to consider and facilitate employers as a critical and active component of its service.

Businesses have a significant amount to offer to careers services that can better inform decision making. And there is strong desire from the business community to support career choices and pathways

The return promises to be invaluable; a thriving business community and a careers service that can deliver the most effective information, advice and guidance while giving the next generation awareness and experience of actual jobs, careers, and opportunities.

Looking for more information?

If you’re interested in finding out more about the review of career services in Scotland, including details of how to get involved, visit the Career Review microsite