Lords debate on career guidance

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Last week there was a debate in the House of Lords on career guidance. You can view it on Parliament TV (it starts 15.28). It might also be worth looking at the House of Lords Library briefing that was created in advance of the debate.

It is a pretty informed debate introduced by Lord Aberdare. There is a lot of agreement on the value of the Careers Strategy, the Gatsby Benchmarks, careers leaders and a number of the other key features of the current career guidance landscape. There is also a growing recognition that the decisions of 2012 had some adverse consequences which have required careers education and guidance to be rebuilt rather than reformed. So while there is agreement about the direction of the strategy, there is less agreement about whether practice is managing to keep up with the strategy.

There is also a clear set of concerns about the future world of work – with common concerns around automation, rapid change and the need for increased flexibility. I think that we need to be a bit more critical about some of this pessimism about the future world of work – but it is important that career guidance does engage with shifts in the political economy, and I think that this point is well made in this debate. It also underlines once again the way in which career guidance is bound up with some of the big questions of public policy.

A brief summary of the inputs is as follows:

  • Baroness Bottomley talked about the value of lifelong guidance for the economy and the need to create a dialogue between the changing world of work and those in the education system.
  • Baroness Morris talked about the importance of getting careers right as part of a commitment to social equity and social mobility. She provided some useful historical narrative about changes to careers guidance and raises some concerns about the fragmentation and complexity of what is available. She also raised some important concerns about the remit and future of The Careers & Enterprise Company.
  • Lord Storey talked about the need for more resources for schools.
  • Lord Gilbert of Panteg focused on the need for more young people going into creative industries. He raised the issue of automation, arguing that this was going to be a critical influence on the future world of work.
  • Baroness Bull also talked about how young people’s ideas are formed by the communities in which they grow up and argued that career guidance is a powerful influence for achieving equity. She also highlighted the importance of creative and arts occupations.
  •  Baroness McIntosh also covered the importance of creative industries. The focus on creative industries from some of the speakers, tentatively questioned the focus on STEM subjects as a proxy for talking about addressing future skills needs.
  • Lord Bishop of Ely again picked up the theme of social mobility and deprivation.
  • Lord Nash for the government emphasised the importance of employer engagement. He provided a good summary of the rationale behind current government policy. He went further than the careers strategy in one area where he talks about the value of careers leaders and hopes (somewhat optimistically) that all schools will employ a full-time specialist in this role.
  • Baroness Coussins highlighted the importance of modern languages as career management skills.
  • Lord Cormack talked about the importance of maintaining a focus on the value of craft.
  • Lord Kerr picked up on the theme about the importance of parity of esteem between different types of education.
  • Baroness Garden of Frognal talked about the role that career guidance can play in supporting gender equality. She also picked up on a range of themes raised elsewhere about declining professional capacity following the 2012 Education Act, the need for skills and the importance of parity of esteem. She also raises the importance of career guidance in universities.
  • Lord Watson again discussed the changing world of work as a context for career education, the role of career education in social mobility and expressed some concerns with the level of resourcing available.
  • Viscount Younger, also for the government, responded to many of the point made by other contributors to the debate, reinforcing the governments support for The Careers & Enterprise Company.
  • Lord Aberdare then concluded by noting that despite the problems there is cause for optimism on career guidance but also noted that we need to move from promises to delivery.

Of course this is a political exchange so whoever you are, you are likely to hear somethings that you agree with and others that you disagree with. But, it is nice to hear people airing the political arguments for career guidance at some length.

My one complaint would be that despite all speakers offering knowledgeable and erudite defences of the value of career education and guidance, so many people feel the need to kick off this kind of speech with a joke about the poor career guidance that they received at school. It would be nice if we could move on past this favourite trope of the political career guidance speech.

Nonetheless, it is well worth a watch for all career guidance policy junkies.



  1. Like the commentary Tristram – I agree all well and good dwelling on the past – what are they going to invest in the future?

    • The latter is a good point. There is nothing productive about pointing out what was not offered in the past. The important thing is that career services are being provided now although not all students will use them unless and until the information is embedded into curriculum

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