There is increasing emphasis on equalising academic and vocational routes in the UK.  The cost of university study, the opportunity to earn and learn through high-quality apprenticeships and increasingly flexible progression routes are helping to improve perceptions of vocational learning and qualifications. 

Flexible pathways are available so that young people can move from, for instance, a full-time vocational programme at college to an apprenticeship with an employer and then later take a higher-level apprenticeship before going to university.

UK approaches to Careers Information Advice and Guidance

The Careers and Enterprise Company

In England, the Careers and Enterprise Company works in partnership with schools, colleges, employers and youth organisations to create career opportunities for young people. They have an Enterprise Advisor Network which pairs senior businesses volunteers with schools to build employer engagement plans and create powerful, lasting connections between local businesses and the schools and colleges in local areas. 

Organisations that provide careers advice in England are encouraged to meet minimum standards designed by independent charity, Gatsby. They identified 8 criteria for effective careers provision know as the Gatsby Benchmarks. These are:

  1. A stable careers programme
  2. Learning from career and labour market information
  3. Addressing the needs of each pupil
  4. Linking curriculum learning to careers
  5. Encounters with employers and employees
  6. Experiences of workplaces
  7. Encounters with further and higher education
  8. Personal guidance 

Skills Development Scotland

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) is the national skills body and delivers Scotland’s free, confidential and impartial all age careers service in schools, in centres and online. 

SDS careers advisers work in partnership with every state secondary school in Scotland, delivering career guidance to enable young people from aged 11-18 to develop their Career Management Skills. Beyond school, SDS advisers operate from a network of high street SDS centres and community locations nationwide, offering expert career information, advice and guidance to customers of all ages. There is also a dedicated national helpline as an access point to individuals including those affected by redundancy.  SDS offers an integrated career service that blends face to face, telephone, video and virtual engagement in career information, advice and guidance. At the heart of SDS careers service is the identification and development of career management skills and thus the career guidance engagement is also a learning and skills engagement, delivered through the coaching approach to career guidance that SDS has embedded in its practice. This is also enabled through a needs led targeted and universal service offer.

Northern Ireland – A Strategy for Careers Information, Advice and Guidance (CIAG)

Northern Ireland has introduced an integrated careers service which is guided through a Careers Advisory Forum which includes representation from industry, government, education, youth services and TVET. The TVET sector is working to introduce new approaches to enhance the development of soft skills in the region based on OECD recommendations on the implementation of a comprehensive approach to Transversal Skills

Careers Wales

Careers Wales has been established to support career planning and successful progression to employment. This includes providing access to CIAG on employment, apprenticeship and training outcomes. It also provides a portal to wider national training and employment initiatives. 

Adult Education and Training 

The sector plays an important role in educating adult learners (over the age of 19), studying outside Higher Education (EQF L5 and above). Adult Education is primarily delivered through FE colleges, Independent Training Providers, voluntary providers and community learning centres, through a range of programmes:

  • Basic skills needed for life and work in English, Maths and ICT
  • Recognised vocational or academic qualification (including English and Maths up to EQF L3 (school leaver))
  • Access to Higher Education programmes that support adult learners, returning to education, gain a place at University.
  • Employment programmes delivered to unemployment benefit claimants