The great careers debate: What happened?

On the 2nd March 2021 a public meeting took place on career guidance. The meeting was organised by the Career Development Policy Group and was introduced by Jan Ellis (CDI) and chaired by me. It featured contributions from Peter Dowd MP (Labour), Baroness Humphreys (Liberal Democrats), Lord Lucas (Conservative) and Toby Perkins MP (Labour). It was attended by over 250 people from the career guidance profession, the wider education system and beyond.

Key areas of discussion included:

The need for career guidance

Participants argued that career guidance was critical to an effective education and employment system. It has an important role to play in support of social mobility, social justice and expanding people’s horizons. Following the disruption of Covid and rising unemployment, the need for career guidance is likely to be greater than ever.

Lifelong provision

Career guidance needs to start early (in primary school) and then be available throughout the life course. It requires education institutions and employers to look beyond their immediate borders and think about the future flow of people and skills. Career guidance is part of the process of strengthening the bonds between education and employment.

The importance of technical and vocational education

There was agreement that there is a need to grow the volume and quality of technical and vocational education in England. Career guidance has an important role to play in this by providing individuals and their families with information and advice on these new routes. A key part of this is ensuring that the Baker clause is able to change the culture in schools.

A fragmented system

The current career guidance system is not working as well as it could. It is fragmented between multiple organisations and services. There is a need to increase coherence in the system, to ensure that high quality information is available to all, and to make the whole system more locally, regionally and sectorally responsive.


Many participants spoke about the need for sustained investment and resources to make career guidance work effectively.


Career guidance is a profession and this profession needs to be recognised as a key contributor to the education and employment system. A key element of this is ensuring that the salaries of careers professionals are fair and competitive.

Find out more

A full write up of the Great Careers Debate is available for those who missed the event themselves.


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