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.

2. Career Provision in Scotland

The career sector is surprisingly broad with interests in CIAG and work-focused experiences ranging from primary school to post-graduate level, and with career information, advice and guidance, skills assessment and job placement covering the age range from early teens to retirement. There are at least three distinct categories of careers service providers, namely:

  • those organisations whose primary function is career education, information, advice and guidance, for example Skills Development Scotland, employability providers.
  • those organisations for whom career education, information, advice and guidance is an important part of their services, for example schools, colleges, universities, Department for Work and Pensions and local authorities.
  • those organisations with an interest in CIAG provision, including trade unions, charities, and local community groups.

These services are delivered by a variety of providers working independently – through formal partnerships or informal arrangements – in a variety of settings. They cut across the responsibilities of different parts of the Scottish Government and local government and touch upon some elements of the services delivered by the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions and the agency which delivers its working-age support service, Jobcentre Plus. 

Partnerships In Action

The Integrated Employment and Skills (IES) Partnership[11] is a partnership arrangement between Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to ensure there is appropriate arrangements in place to identify and refer individuals for support between organisations, depending on their needs. Through Next Steps (where Skills Development Scotland is the lead Partner), customers receive targeted support from SDS when they are unemployed and seeking employment. The reference to 18 years is in relation to SDS Advisers then introducing the Job Centre Plus/DWP support to an individual that they may be entitled to. There are no eligibility considerations in place. SDS inform the individual of the support and will, in most cases, signpost to DWP or jointly case conference with the DWP staff to enable the customer to have a ‘warm handover’ to their services. All eligibility is dealt with through DWP

Similar arrangements exist for all age customers where DWP is the lead partner. The IES partnership enables DWP colleagues to make referrals where they feel a customer may benefit from career guidance as part of their career development.

Career guidance enables customers to consider and navigate choices and changes that are upon them and assess their career management skills development needs. Career guidance is an impartial, customer-centred practice and DWP colleagues recognise the uniqueness of this intervention for certain customers.

Many differing organisations throughout Scotland contribute to the development of individuals’ career management skills and employability experiences. As a collective, these are best described as a ‘careers system’ with relationships formed as part of, or sometimes separate to, the work of Skills Development Scotland.

Their common aim is to assist individuals at differing points throughout their lives to make educational, training and occupational choices and to manage their career within changing education systems and labour markets. Collectively, they represent a composite careers system that has evolved over time.

Organisations and roles involved in the provision of CIAG and related services in Scotland

Organisations and roles involved in the provision of CIAG and related services in Scotland

Scotland is renowned for its high quality and leading-edge career provision

Scotland has an all-age, inclusive national careers service delivered by Skills Development Scotland which operates alongside services delivered by other partners. The organisation has careers advisers based in every state secondary school in Scotland, including additional support need (ASN) schools. For those not in school, including adults, there are centres in every local authority area throughout Scotland, in addition to an online presence and a telephone helpline. Skills Development Scotland provides a tailored service focused on individuals’ needs, taking into account vulnerable groups and tailoring the service to best support them. No groups are excluded from access to the Skills Development Scotland careers service. This includes those in employment who are seeking to change or progress in their career.

My World of Work (My WoW)

Underpinning the development of the Skills Development Scotland careers service offer is the ‘My World of World’ website and ambassador service, internationally recognised as a leading exemplar of dynamic online career provision. It includes 'MyKids Career' –  a campaign to support parent(s)/carer(s)’ understanding of the world of work and to engage in career conversations with their children – and the Veteran and Service Leaver landing page, co-developed with military personnel and veterans.

Twenty-seven colleges operate in 13 regions across Scotland, allowing them to plan regionally and deliver locally for the benefit of individuals, communities, the economy and wider society. They provide career management skills resources, advice and support, student development plans, CV/interview skills, career and application advice, career fairs, mentoring programmes and signposting. 

Higher education institutions are autonomous but subject to legislation and regulation through the Scottish Government. The Scottish higher education sector includes 15 universities, the college sector, 2 small specialist institutions; 1 tertiary institution; and the Open University in Scotland. Activities include: 

  • Core services (offered by all CIAG services) include: skills workshops and seminars, career fairs, employer presentations, vacancy advertising including part-time and internships, transition skills development, 1-1 advice and guidance 
  • Value added services (offered by more than half of higher education career services and becoming increasingly common as service diversify and develop their provision) include: placement programmes, internships, alumni networking, employability awards, mentoring, and services to alumni/graduates 
  • Bespoke services (offered by a smaller proportion of services reflecting local needs and contexts) include: placement services, volunteering and business start-up support.

CIAG services are also delivered by a wide range of third sector organisations and by trade unions or human resource (HR) managers in workplace settings.

Scotland has a good reputation for strong partnerships rooted deep in local communities. But we cannot be complacent – the world of work is changing for young and old and what we know about CIAG and how it works is growing. There is heightened awareness of the changing nature of consumers’ attitudes and behaviours, particularly in relation to accessing face-to-face, telephone and web-based services. Also, new and challenging economic conditions, including the UK’s planned departure from the European Union, underline the need to maximise resources and to consider a dynamic approach to the design and development of career services across Scotland. In such circumstances, it is critical that we ensure all people are aware of how CIAG services can help them and how to access them. With greater momentum towards achieving this shared goal the design and delivery arrangements in the coming year(s) can be significantly enhanced.

Partnerships In Action

Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) is the Scottish Government initiative for supporting people affected by redundancy. Skills Development Scotland leads PACE delivery, working with partners including local authorities, the Department for Work and Pensions (through Jobcentre Plus), Citizens Advice, colleges and training providers. The extensive network of community-based organisations delivering various types of career, information, advice and guidance, employability and/or enterprise service in local communities is significant. These experiences and expertise need to be further harnessed and move towards a proactive approach. 

External Reviews

Skills Development Scotland works closely with a wide range of key partners, including HM Inspectors of Education to quality assure and improve CIAG delivery across Scotland. The fourth edition of 'How good is our school?' makes employability explicit in one of the Quality Indicators. This is a quality improvement framework which is used by HM Inspectors when carrying out school inspections, recognising that career education, supported by Skills Development Scotland, contributes to the overall performance of individual schools. A similar approach is taken through the quality improvement framework ‘How Good is Our College’. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) take a thematic approach to work with Universities in Scotland to ensure career services are meeting the needs of learners.

Tracking outcomes

One approach to aligning activity and supporting service delivery in Scotland is the 16+ Data Hub. This is a secure online portal which allows a range of partners to input and access a combined database of information (on individuals across Scotland aged between 16 and 24). The 16+ Data Hub has a range of reports, drawn from a Skills Development Scotland client management system which holds information on service users of all ages, that help partners provide targeted support to young people, specifically those not in education, training or employment. The information includes details of all young people across Scotland aged 16-24 who are:

  • receiving careers support
  • planning on leaving school
  • starting and withdrawing from college of university
  • receiving benefits.

The exchange of data enables combined information on young people to be drawn down as reports that are tailored to partners’ specific areas. Regular uploading of data by partners ensures these reports are up-to-date and informative.

The Annual Participation Measure is underpinned by a Customer Support System (CSS), updated by Skills Development Scotland and by partners (including local authorities/schools, colleges, Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). It allows all partners to better understand the impact of interventions and the outcomes they deliver at every transition point for 16-19 year olds. Local authorities and colleges can access their own data via the 16+ Data Hub at any time. As agreed by Scottish Ministers the Annual Participation Measure has been adopted in the Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework as the measure of young people’s participation.

Enhanced Professional Development 

We will support the development of a sector-leading coaching approach to guidance, where coaching principles are adopted to support the development and acquisition of career management skills for effective career decision making. Skills Development Scotland has also created a high performing specialist CIAG Academy approach to support continuous professional development among CIAG practitioners. The Academy’s aim is to ensure practitioners feel confident in their knowledge and skills when carrying out their role. An evolving Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme has been specifically designed to enable CIAG colleagues across Skills Development Scotland to develop and maintain the professional skills required to effectively support customers. 

Two new apprenticeship frameworks - a Modern Apprenticeship (MA) and a Technical Apprenticeship (TA) - create new pathways into the post-graduate qualification in careers guidance. In addition, fully qualified, experienced practitioners have access to post-graduate research study at MSc level. The Skills Development Scotland Centre for Work-based Learning[12] supports policy development and best practice in Scotland by drawing upon lessons from international experience.

Skills Development Scotland have established a collaborative PhD programme, in partnership with the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (SGSSS), to deepen links with the academic community and bring fresh thinking to skills and career development policy and delivery.

Strong engagement within the model, and embedding insights from the research, is helping to provide a detailed and relevant evidence base that the careers system can draw on to evolve the learning and skills system in Scotland. 

Within Skills Development Scotland, during the PhD programme knowledge exchange sessions are held with CIAG practitioners to share early findings and discuss application of research in practice. This enables practitioners to continue to reflect and evolve to be an adaptive, resilient service in a complex and exciting future. 

There is a strong appetite to strengthen relationships between service providers and service users across the different areas of service delivery. A working group has shaped this vision and ways of moving forward to ensure the system continues to strengthen and improve in increasingly challenging circumstances. This requires a greater focus on: 

  • ways in which these services and relationships are co-ordinated, quality assured, monitored, inspected and evaluated; and  
  • ways in which services are well supported by: 
    • professional standards
    • trained and qualified staff 
    • capacity building and sharing resources 
    • benchmarking/peer learning arrangements 
    • cross-fertilisation of good/interesting policies and practices 
    • evidence, impact and peer review 
    • the integration of data collection, sharing and analysis 
    • the optimum use of technology as means of both service delivery and service administration.

How will it be done?

  • A national model will bring consistency, coherence and greater strategic direction to CIAG delivery
  • Enhanced digital services will support service delivery and increase accessibility



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