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Bolster adult careers advice now to improve the skills of the UK’s future workforce

Economic crises, technological change, the pandemic and the war in Europe have transformed national and international labour markets and the types and quality of available jobs the labour market, resulting in greater demands from employers for skilled workers and workers able to adapt to future changes.

Recent research on the labour market information system for careers in England found significant gaps in adult career guidance services, such as little detailed information on skills and sectoral information. These gaps were emphasised during the pandemic when adults were looking to transfer their skills to new roles and advisers found that there was a lack of current information on the labour market and demands that could be used to help them.

ReWAGE's new paper, Adult career guidance and its role in skills development, argues that adult career guidance services should be the foundation of a skills system supporting those in work to remain employable and those out of work to gain employment.

The paper references international evidence to demonstrate how other countries are achieving this through legislation, strategic leadership, coordination, collaboration and professional standards, and makes recommendations on how the UK could improve its offer. It is supported by a short Policy Brief.


· The Government (working across departmental and other public bodies) should provide a transparent and stable career guidance system through legislation, strategic leadership, and better coordination and collaboration between stakeholders (i.e., local government, employers, education and training providers, public and private employment services, National Careers Service) that supports both those unemployed and those in work to explore career options, return to education, reskill and upskill, and gain sustainable work.

· There should be greater public investment in a system of lifelong guidance with a particular focus on supporting those adults in employment ensuring that they understand available job, education and career opportunities, but can also access support to make informed work and learning decisions across their life course.

· The Unit for Future Skills at the Department for Education should invest further in labour market information and data particularly at a sectoral level to improve intelligence for those developing and providing services to support adults looking to upskill, reskill and transfer their skills. Investment should also be focused on occupations classification and skills taxonomies used to collect data, which would enable better linking of data.

· A strategy and guidance on how employers can provide support and opportunities for employees with their career development whether this about developing skills or re-engaging with learning should be developed. This could be developed through a collaboration with employer bodies and associations supported by, for example, the Career Development Institute (CDI) and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

· The Government should encourage and support employers to invest in careers support and development for employees to ensure a skilled and adaptable workforce which would benefit the individual, the employer and the economy. By supporting employers with the career development of their workforce, there is the potential to start thinking about how skills can be maximised and linked to good jobs.

There needs to be a clear agreement on what ‘good’ careers guidance looks like for adults so that services can be developed and expanded ensuring that adults needs are met and they are supported throughout their life course.

Professor Irena Grugulis, co-chair of ReWAGE, says:

“Good adult career guidance can benefit employees, employers and the economy and can help to ensure that the workforce of 2030 and beyond is ready and able to meet the challenges ahead.

“Workers are rightly anticipating the need to upskill, reskill and adapt to new roles, but they need a well-connected and established skills system with career guidance support at its heart to help them understand the skills required in the current labour market, as well as support in gaining and maintaining those needed to remain in the labour market and to meet future employer demands.

“There is overwhelming evidence to support the benefits of career guidance and when enriched by employer engagement and work experiences it enables people to better understand the work environment, as well as raise their aspirations.”

The paper was commissioned and funded by the Gatsby Foundation.

Beth Jones, Head of Careers at the Gatsby Foundation, says:

“Careers guidance for adults is a critical part of our skills system and a vital means of tackling unemployment, underemployment and skills misalignment. This paper looks internationally at features of successful systems and will add valuable insight to the Gatsby Foundation’s ongoing research project exploring what good adult careers guidance looks like.”

Tue 11 Apr 2023, 06:56