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Harnessing the voice of our customers and putting them at the heart of the design process

Through a career of working with young people, I’ve seen first-hand the power of harnessing their thoughts, feelings, and opinions to develop new approaches and ways of working. 

As we enter the final stages of the career review we’ve worked with more than 80 young people to develop and co-design the final recommendations which will be submitted to ministers in the coming weeks. 

This insight and shared ownership is critical if we’re to design career services that are fit for purpose and future-proofed.  

We have to understand what’s working and where we need to improve. And whilst the evidence tells us that there is much to celebrate we know Scotland’s career services aren’t working for everyone.

Since February, we’ve undertaken over 250 customer interactions through a mix of co-design labs, workshops and 1-2-1 engagements. 

James Russell 4

The experiences these young people have shared have been honest, inspiring, challenging and hugely motivating.  They’ve helped us understand how career services are received and given us clear direction on how we can do better in the future.  

Customer voice  

Take, for example, the experiences of Jack, a 20-year-old non-binary student, who has shared their story as part of the review.   Struggling with mental health issues, Jack wasn’t around at school long enough to receive the right career support.   

What Jack told us and provided a real-life example of what the data shows – there is universal access to career services across Scotland…but not all access is equal.  

Jack simply fell through the cracks.

We also heard from Iain, a 21-year-old care experienced part-time worker and volunteer, who - like many others with care experience - feels the current system hasn’t worked for him.   

He feels that he had no voice. I’ll never forget the words he shared with us:

A lot of it is people making decisions for you and without you. It’s a major issue.


With current services strongly focused on those moving to secondary school and beyond, we’ve heard from some amazing primary pupils.  

Zoe, an 8-year-old pupil, told us she already feels a distinction between ‘boy jobs’ and ‘girl jobs’.  

She also recognises early expectations and standards, anticipating she’ll explore a traditional career.  

This insight confirms that for many young people, a narrow exposure to jobs often means their aspirations are limited.  They can’t be what they can’t see.

Design principles  

Jack, Iain, Zoe and a great many other young people have bravely shared their experiences with us over recent months. 

But it doesn’t stop there.  As well as telling us how the career system has worked for them, they’re also helping us design the principles and recommendations of the review. 

They’ve joined parents and carers, career practitioners and employers across Scotland who have engaged in the review process, providing new ways to frame and re frame the challenges and opportunities, driving innovation in the way we support career choices  

Through our work with these customers and partners, we’ve come to five key design principles 

These principles set a standard for the way we’ll work in the future and directly inform the review’s final recommendations and actions:  

  • Career services meet the dynamic aspirations and different needs of all young people 
  • Career services build agency and equip young people with the skills to thrive in a changing world 
  • Career services enable young people to expand their knowledge and experience of work 
  • Career experiences are integrated into curricula, practice and culture of the education system 
  • An eco-system of assets delivering coherent and impactful career services for Scotland 

As we enter the final stages of the review process, all of us involved in the project have been inspired and challenged by the young people we’ve met through this process over recent months.   

We’re absolutely determined to ensure that we honour the insight and innovation they’ve shared with us to improve the services that the career system delivers going forward.