Scotland's careers strategy: moving forward

Strategy highlighting the role that career education, information, advice and guidance (CIAG) services in Scotland can play in helping to address future skills demands and deliver inclusive growth.

1. Vision

Skills play a key role in improving productivity, inclusive growth and fair work, which are all critical for Scotland’s future success. For businesses, a highly qualified and motivated workforce helps to ensure profitability and competitive edge. For individuals, skills offer a route to increased earnings and obtaining personal fulfilment both at work and beyond. Scotland’s skills system is one of the world’s most successful and marks us out as an open, outward-facing nation which encourages foreign direct investment and economic growth. We want more individuals to access CIAG services that can help refresh their skills, work experience and qualifications on a lifelong basis. As we have recognised in Scotland’s Future Skills Action Plan, we must ensure the system adapts to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead. 

A growing, innovative and inclusive economy is vital for Scotland. The Scottish Government’s commitment to inclusive growth is built into Scotland’s National Performance Framework, which provides a purpose not just for Government, but for the whole country. The Framework sets out a vision for a more inclusive society. Scotland is a successful country with opportunities that enable everyone to fulfil their potential. This contributes towards both the increased wellbeing of citizens and sustainable and inclusive economic growth[7]. At the heart of the Scottish Government’s purpose lies our values for a society that treats all our people with kindness, dignity, compassion and respect.

Our vision is for a world-class, professionally-led, aligned and flexible system of career information, advice and guidance services which delivers for every citizen, regardless of where they live in Scotland, their age or circumstance. We want to see a system through which citizens can expect a high standard of support that meets their needs when they need it most, a system that is fully interconnected to ensure citizens access the right people and services which include employability and skills support.

Where are we now?

There is a strong foundation of career services in Scotland, but the system is the sum of many parts. This brings the risk of incoherency, inconsistency and of people falling between the cracks. There are also a number of new challenges emerging

A critical aspect of this inclusive growth is ensuring that every individual, especially those who face the most complex and challenging barriers, have access to career education, information, advice and guidance. This should start early in primary schools[8] and continue throughout life to support individuals to make informed choices about their futures. It raises aspirations and makes a positive contribution to society through participation in fulfilling learning and work. 

Rapid changes of employment structures and labour market demands will require increasingly flexible approaches to developing a career with numerous routes and pathways. This, therefore, will require career support that ensures that individuals of all ages can recognise career development as a continual lifelong development process and not only as a crisis point intervention. CIAG services across Scotland must therefore be more visible to all and ensure accessibility at point of individual need. 

Different people in society have different access to sources of useful information and support when it comes to accessing jobs, educational routes and career development opportunities. Making contact with people who make hiring decisions, with first-hand experience of training, further or higher education admissions, or who work in a field of interest, is a resource of great value – but such a resource is not available to everyone in equal measure. CIAG attempts to counter the inequalities in society linked to trustworthy, reliable access to career information and support.

The system needs to respond to new challenges:

Structural changes are placing new demands on CIAG services

with technological change, Brexit and changes in the organisation of work (non-standard jobs/’gig’ economy)

  • growing numbers of adults will need to job switch, retrain and upskill
  • young people will need more support to make good decisions about their education and training choices
  • those with the lowest levels of skills will need the most help
  • CIAG provision will need to focus more on developing career management skills (as well as providing information and guidance)

It is of central importance that CIAG services pro-actively promote fair and equitable access to opportunities and challenge inequalities such as stereotyping. This means recognising and responding positively to diverse needs with respect to gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, disability, or age, and supporting those who may experience discrimination for their identity within these or other social categories. It also means pro-actively supporting those experiencing poverty, socio-economic disadvantage, or barriers related to their social class or status. This will involve supporting and encouraging individuals to access careers and industrial sectors where they are under-represented in order to address occupational segregation and widen the opportunities available to them. 

For most people, having access to learning experiences and to fair work is an essential prerequisite to leading a fulfilling life. Experiences in work and learning have a profound impact on individuals’ health and mental well-being. A universal service which allows people to explore, understand and access employment opportunities would have a key role in enabling people to access economically sustainable lifestyles. People should take responsibility for managing their own career, while the system should support individuals to develop the skills and build the confidence to do so. The system should also provide all-age targeted support to facilitate career decision making where the support is needed most. We believe that delivering this agenda is vital for Scotland’s future wellbeing and economic prosperity, and to deliver a more diverse and inclusive workforce. 

What needs to be done?

There is a need for:

  • A clear articulation of a universal entitlement
  • Coverage which is comprehensive and joined up and utilises available resources most effectively (no-one gets left behind)
  • Coherence and consistently high quality practice within the careers system
  • Strong support for those in greatest need of support
  • Strong focus on career management skills (as well as providing information and guidance)

We will achieve a more needs-sensitive deployment of resources through a more explicitly differentiated service model, underpinned by a universal entitlement in Scotland to access high-quality CIAG services. CIAG is not just an emergency service at a time of employment or unemployment crisis. 

The changing labour market requires more highly visible and accessible CIAG services for people finding their way through the worlds of education and work. There is a need for coherent and consistent provision for all ages to enable individuals to undertake retraining/upskilling in an increasingly dynamic labour market. 

This means having equitable access to high quality practitioners and CIAG services who can support individuals to develop their skills, including meta-skills[9], and career management skills (CMS)[10]. These skills are critical to ensuring individuals can demonstrate adaptive resilience, can challenge inequalities and aspire to the opportunities that exist in a world of rapid change and digital disruption. For some people in some situations there is a need to go beyond the universal entitlement and harness the capacity of tailored CIAG to challenge inequalities within society. 

This can only be achieved by increasing the coherency and consistency across delivery partners through closer communication, collaboration and co-operation between and across agencies. What needs to be different from the past is the creation of more inter-connected systems of lifelong learning and CIAG.

The vision will be enabled by a high performing Scottish careers system, within which all strategic and delivery partners work collaboratively, adhering to common principles. The progressive development of both meta-skills and   career management skills through an individual’s learner journey and at key transition points is vital. This vision includes embedding and aligning CIAG services within all levels of state-funded training, employability and local community services. 

Moving forward to achieve this vision, the key goal is to have: -

  • a national model for career education, information, advice and guidance services with shared principles adopted across education, training and employability services for young people and adults;
  • a focus on strengthening collaborative partnerships and working more closely with target groups to co-create more CIAG designed to meet the needs of young people and adults;
  • a sharing of knowledge and expertise in professional development, quality assurance, and improved outcomes;
  • a pan-sectoral leadership body focused on all-age CIAG provision and continuous improvement. 

With the objective of achieving more efficient and effective integration and alignment of all our career, employability and skills support services, we have paid particular regard to the scope for practical improvements in the way that various service providers are organised and interact with one another. 

This strategy has set out a rationale for change. It articulates ways of moving forward and the outcome areas that it will seek to influence. This is not a road map of policy interventions – this will come later following further consultation.



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