Home / careers guidance

No limits: helping primary pupils fulfil their potential

A year on from the start of a new project to improve careers guidance for primary pupils, Matt Joyce, Regional Lead – North East Ambition, at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, takes a look at what’s been achieved so far.

There’s increasing evidence to show that children begin to form ideas about their futures when they’re as young as five or six. And by the age of 10, many young people have already made career limiting decisions, which are fixed by the time they’re 14.

That’s why, in 2019, we began working with 70 primary schools in the North East to pilot a new approach to careers education for younger school children.

The Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot project builds on what we learnt when the North East was the pilot region for implementing the Gatsby Good Careers Guidance Benchmarks – which lay out requirements for different elements of careers guidance, from encounters with employers, to engagement with further and higher education providers – in secondary schools and colleges. The project has had a remarkable impact on the quality of careers guidance young people receive and we knew there was the potential to adapt the framework to meet the needs of younger children as well.

In September 2019 we began work on the primary pilot, testing the new framework with primary schools spanning a range of geographies and settings. Each school carried out an initial audit of their careers provision and we worked with Careers Leaders to identify gaps in provision and to create an action plan for each school.

So, has the project had the impact we hoped for? It’s been more than a year since we set out on this journey and we’re now in a position to look at what’s been achieved so far and whether it is helping primary-age children to learn about the full range of possibilities open to them in the future.

The interim evaluation which we commissioned has shown evidence of a positive impact on pupils already, with some massive improvements in young people’s ability to talk about and understand their career options being reported. 81% of the schools surveyed said that pupils better understand the links between what they are studying and future career options, and 89% that pupils are able to talk more about their career plans.

There’s been a jump in primary Careers Leaders’ confidence as well, with 88% saying they now rate their knowledge, skills and understanding as good or very good, compared with 10% when we started.

The evaluation also shows significant progress is being made against the Good Careers Guidance Benchmarks, and 82% of survey respondents say careers-related learning is now part of their school’s general curriculum, and no longer a standalone activity or an extra-curricular specialism. Activity also ranges across the key stages, while remaining age-appropriate.

These improvements are shown across the board, in schools with a range of Ofsted ratings and with diverse cohorts of pupils. And the work within primary schools links directly with the Benchmarks framework which is in place in secondary and further education, easing young people’s transition from primary school and giving them a better baseline of understanding and experiences when they start secondary school.

Going forward we’ll be implementing the various recommendations that came out of the evaluation and I hope that, once the pilot finishes in just under a year’s time, we’ll be able to expand our work to help more primary schools improve their careers guidance.

There’s currently no statutory requirement for primary schools to provide careers guidance but we know it’s vital if young people are to be given the best possible start in life. The engagement we’ve seen from the 70 schools involved in the pilot has been amazing and shows that they see the importance of this work as well. I hope that, together, we can help more children reach their full potential.

Read the Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot evaluation report on the North East Data Hub here.

Home / careers guidance

Innovative data-driven approach to shape careers guidance for young people in the North East

A ground-breaking pilot project is providing North East schools, employers, further education, higher education and training providers with live data on young people’s career aspirations and understanding of the different options open to them when they leave school.

In the first project of its kind, a new digital tool developed by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), allows educators to use current data from pupils at 16 pilot schools to tailor careers guidance and training opportunities for young people in the North East.

Neill Willis, Regional Lead, Education Challenge, at the North East LEP, said: “Much of the data regarding young people’s progression that can be used to inform careers education, information, advice and guidance strategic planning is historic, with time lags of up to two years. For the first time, we now have up to date data, based on hundreds of students, which we can use to help improve the prospects of young people across our region.

“This data tells us, for example, how many young people want to pursue a career in health and life sciences, how many are interested in higher education or how many need more help in understanding what apprenticeships are and how to apply. The data will be used and shared with partners to ensure further guidance and experiences are tailored to fit with their needs.”

The data is gathered through careers leaders and careers interviews with students at the 16 pilot schools. The students meet with a qualified careers adviser seven times across two academic years and, in between each meeting, their feedback is used to shape the guidance and interventions they receive.

The impact of interventions such as careers workshops, encounters with employers, and mock interviews, can also be more accurately tracked using the data.

“Data is collected as students move through year 10 and 11, so it’s not just a snapshot,” said Neil Willis. “After each interview, the students’ data is fed into a digital tool which collates and analyses it, giving us the ability to see individual information, and regional trends, in young people’s understanding of their possible choices and their post-16 intended destinations.

“This has the potential to further transform careers education, information, advice and guidance in the North East, making it more targeted and impactful, and giving young people the best possible start in their careers, training or further education.”

The findings from the project will be shared with schools and colleges across the North East, as well as employers and training providers, enabling them to base their programmes and engagement with education on an accurate understanding of young people’s needs and ambitions.

The pilot project is part of the Department for Education-funded Opportunity North East, which is designed to ensure all pupils have the same opportunities to learn, develop and achieve success, regardless of their background or where they live. The pilot focuses on Challenge 4: too few young people find a pathway to a good career. The pilot is delivered jointly by the North East LEP and Tees Valley Combined Authority where a further 12 secondary schools are involved.

To find out more, contact Neil Willis on [email protected].

Home / careers guidance

In conversation with Neil Willis, Regional Lead, Education Challenge at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership

In conversation with Neil Willis, Regional Lead, Education Challenge at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, reflecting on the impact Opportunity North East has had so far, and looking forward to its next phase.

For the past year, we (the North East Local Enterprise Partnership) have been working with colleagues from Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) to develop a joint approach to support a strand of The Department for Education’s pioneering Opportunity North East (ONE) programme.

Designed to ensure all pupils have the same opportunities to learn, develop and achieve success, regardless of their background or where they live, Opportunity North East is an absolute determination that no child should be left behind.

It’s fantastic to see to see The Department for Education has unveiled its delivery plan for the next phase of Opportunity North East (ONE), which includes a £24 million investment to tackle the challenges facing some of our region’s lowest-performing schools.

This significant investment will mean we can continue to work in partnership with Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) to ensure a consistent approach and maximum impact for young people across our region.

Since the programme began, we’ve worked with 28 ONE Vision schools to help identify the complex challenges and barriers that can hinder pupils’ success. This next phase will build on our work to date so we can provide even more support to all 28 schools.

Looking forward to the next phase

The latest Opportunity North East Delivery Plan sets out five main challenges that exist across the region. Our area of focus will be to lead work around Challenge 4, supporting our young people to find pathways to a good career.

Currently, the North East is the region with the lowest percentage of young people in a sustained education, employment or training destination after key stage 4 and key stage 5. That’s something we need to change.

To help us do that, we’ve worked with all 28 ONE Vision schools to understand how we can help make a difference to young people when it comes to securing employment, apprenticeships or moving to further education. Thanks to the feedback we’ve received, we plan to deliver an enhanced offer of careers and business engagement support for these ONE Vision schools, including plans for monitoring impact. Pupils will benefit from a programme of support that really makes a difference to their lives.

We’ll be working with partners including the Department for Education, our universities and local employers, as well as with our colleagues in Tees Valley, to collectively and intensively support up to 30 young people from each school into sustained education, employment or training.

Pupils will be supported from Year 9 right through to the end of Year 11. They’ll get access to high quality destinations guidance, personalised interventions and one to one guidance to support them in their next steps, including the opportunities available to them.

Our target is that by 2022, all ONE Vision schools will have achieved all eight Good Career Guidance Benchmarks and we’ll see an increased percentage of young people from those schools in a sustained education, employment or training destination after key stage 4 and key stage 5.

This, of course, is in addition to work we’re already doing through North East Ambition; supporting every school and college in the North East to achieve the eight Good Career Guidance Benchmarks, as well as through our Education Challenge and Ford Next Generation Learning Programmes – supporting teachers, school leaders and governors to integrate an understanding of the world of work and career opportunities into the curriculum.

We want each and every young person in our region to have the best possible start to their working life, and we are determined that no pupil will be left behind.

We can’t wait to get started on the next phase of this incredibly important work.

Home / careers guidance

In conversation with Matt Joyce, Regional Lead for North East Ambition, about the importance of connecting careers guidance to employment opportunities.

A report published this week (22 January 2020) by the Education and Employers charity, highlights concerns around a gap between the career aspirations of young people in the UK and the reality of the labour market.

It calls for more to be done to address an ‘aspiration-reality disconnect’ in the UK – where the ambitions of our young people don’t match the jobs that are out there.

Recommendations include more support for careers guidance at secondary school level and better labour market information for young people. The report also calls for a significant expansion of career-related learning at primary level.

Here in the North East, we’re already working with partners to achieve all these aims – and have been for some time.

We recently expanded our work to primary level, working with the EY Foundation on a pilot to explore what good career guidance looks like across all phases of primary education, including how schools can connect with local employers to offer primary pupils a range of age-appropriate, meaningful encounters with the world of work. We want to support children to be ambitious from the earliest possible age and start challenging any limiting beliefs they have about themselves, based on their gender or socio-economic background.

The primary pilot is just one strand of our North East Ambition programme, which is funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) and led by the North East LEP working with partners. Through North East Ambition, we’re also actively supporting all the region’s secondary schools and colleges to meet the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks – placing a strong emphasis on engagement with employers, experiences of the workplace and linking learning to labour market information and the region’s employment sectors.

North East Ambition is integral to our work around skills development and the delivery of our Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) for the North East. Our ultimate aim is to ensure that our young people leave education or training with the skills, qualifications and personal qualities that employers look for. To achieve that, we need real involvement from employers in our schools and colleges, so they can help to shape a future talent pipeline.

If we want to support our young people to understand the realities of the workplace, the expectations of employers and the opportunities open to them, it’s vital that we connect education and employment at every opportunity.

Matt Joyce, Regional Lead, North East Ambition.

Watch now – Meaningful encounters: Year 6 pupils from Bexhill Primary Academy, Sunderland visit advanced manufacturing employer Unipres to discover more about the world of work.

Watch now – Learning from LMI: Year 9 students from Norham High School explore four key regional employment sectors, the roles within them and the skills and qualifications you might need.

You can find out more about what we’re achieving through North East Ambition by visiting northeastambition.co.uk

North East Ambition is funded by the European Social Fund (ESF).

Home / careers guidance

Mock interviews help Gateshead students prepare to enter the world of work

Year 11 students at Lord Lawson of Beamish Academy in Gateshead have been preparing for the world of work, college or university, thanks to a North East construction company.

The MGL Group, which is based in Durham, partnered with the school to provide every student in the year group with support in researching job opportunities and preparing for interviews.

Working with the school’s Careers Lead, MGL Group provided each student with details of a range of apprenticeship roles that exist within the construction industry. After choosing a role and carrying out further research, students attended a 15 minute mock interview, carried out by members of MGL Group’s HR team.

MGL Group Director Gillian Reader explained: “The students learnt about CV design, the accompanying letter, job applications and how to approach them, and the interview process. Finishing up with a realistic mock interview helped them to put these practical skills into action and also stands them in good stead for attending future interviews.”

“Students applied for positions including Accountancy Technician Apprenticeship, HR Support, Trainee Buyer, Civil Engineer, Highways Maintenance and Quantity Surveyor, depending on their own individual skills and interests.

“During the interviews, we use the same approach as we use with applicants to our apprenticeship programmes, so, while the students were supported throughout the process, it was also realistic enough to help prepare them for similar situations once they have left school. It’s also a great way for MGL Group as a business to inform young people about some of the opportunities that exist in our industry, and help to secure our future pipeline of talent.”

Each student received feedback after their interview, helping them to understand what they need to do in order to give themselves the best possible start when it comes to applying for further study, jobs or apprenticeships.

In total, 240 students went through the application and interview process, and the project is due to be repeated in 2019-20 with the next cohort of year 11s.

This project is part of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Enterprise Adviser programme, which embeds business leaders into secondary schools and colleges to help them shape the delivery of careers education. Find out more at www.northeastambition.co.uk.

Home / careers guidance

Planning for our region’s ‘upskill battle’

This week, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) published a report into the importance of lifelong learning in our modern economy.

They’ve entitled it ‘An upskill battle’, which perfectly encapsulates the challenge we face as we respond to an ever-changing sector and skills landscape, and as we work to develop a more competitive economy for the North East.

The very nature of this challenge – particularly around technology, digitalisation and innovation – is that the landscape will continue to evolve and change. It is indeed an uphill battle. So how do we plan and prepare for a future that could change the very moment we think we’ve caught up with it?

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership has been working for some time now – with employers, training providers, schools, colleges and other partners – to explore these challenges and keep them at the top of the agenda when it comes to future planning around employability and skills in the region.

And as highlighted by the CBI in their report, lifelong adult education and careers guidance need to be a fundamental part of the solution.

The demands of today’s global, digitally-driven economy require a broader, more agile skillset than ever before. It’s a fast-moving landscape that waits for no-one. Employers and government need to recognise this quickly and work together to make sure that people can access the training and support they need to remain productive throughout their working lives.

Employers need to build training and skills development into their business models, and government needs to ensure that training is accessible and affordable for those who need to pay for it themselves.

We also agree with the CBI that we need to extend careers guidance beyond 19 and abandon the idea that teachers can equip young people with all the knowledge they need at the start.

Instead, we need to think about careers guidance as a journey from primary-age to retirement, and this is particularly important for those who experience loss of work or whose skills face becoming obsolete.

If we can put the right support, guidance and training opportunities in place in our region, we can revive, revitalise and extend working lives and create a workforce that’s adaptable and ready to take on whatever the future economy may throw at us.

An important part of this will be around supporting people to understand how they can map and transfer their strengths, skills and knowledge from one role to another throughout their career.

That’s why we particularly support the CBI’s suggestion that government should look to develop a nationally recognised skills ‘passporting’ tool as part of the National Retraining Scheme, so that informal training and skills are taken into account when looking for future employment. The Department for Education’s Get Help to Retrain scheme, piloted in the North East, is a good step towards this, supporting people to map their current skills and signposting opportunities.

This CBI report highlights some very stark realities; people will typically work up to twenty years longer than their parents, well into their 70s, meaning the growing need for adult education and a shift towards a lifelong learning culture is critical.

Working into our 70s and beyond is a challenge that many of us will personally face. The time to plan for that future, is now.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director, North East Local Enterprise Partnership.


Home / careers guidance

Bringing careers strategy into reality, and into life

Newcastle College is the North East’s largest college, with more than 16,000 students. It is also part of Newcastle College Group (NCG) – one of the largest not-for-profit education and training groups in the UK, made up of seven colleges.

The college is supported by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s North East Ambition programme, which helps every secondary school and college in the region towards achieving the government’s Good Careers Guidance Benchmarks.

In just 12 months, the college has successfully improved the coherence and visibility of careers guidance across the whole organisation.

A dedicated Careers Portal is now prominent on the college website and every newly-enrolled student receives a clear and user-friendly Skills and Careers Programme Plan.

More than 5,000 16 to 18-year-old students, including apprentices, received this during their induction activities at the start of their qualifications this year.

Ronnie Burn, Head of Student Services and Careers Leader at Newcastle College, explains how they achieved this success, including the challenges they have navigated along the way:

Supporting the progression and next steps for our students was always at the very heart of our work. We set out to create a plan that could and would be embedded at a college-wide level, to ensure that all our students would be fully aware of our careers guidance and curriculum offer and could make informed decisions for themselves, at every opportunity.

One of our primary goals was to ensure that ownership and responsibility of careers guidance within the college is a key feature for each and every staff member.

We started our journey by completing North East Ambition’s benchmarks audit tool. We also used the Careers and Enterprise Company’s Compass assessment tool.

Doing all of this gave us a great starting point for creating a three-year action plan.

What we did next

Through North East Ambition, we were given the opportunity to join the country’s only regional College Hub, and this gave us many opportunities to consult on best practice models, drawing from career guidance peers from across the region.

The external evolution of careers guidance development work over the last two years, both nationally and regionally, has provided a network to share and test new thinking in developing working career guidance models that operationally fit with the college.

One of our priorities was to identify those colleagues with a responsibility for the provision of careers guidance from across the college, and ensure they were included in the planning from the start.

We consulted right across the college to gain feedback on the first edition of the Skills and Careers Programme Plan, and this included discussions with NCG Executive Directors, members of the college Principalship Team, college Directors, Heads of Curriculum and Service Managers, the Quality Team, Central Support staff and Marketing services.

The impact of this has been that our plan reflects a number of aspects of curriculum content delivery and developing practice.

These include the development of ‘schemes of learning’ incorporating the skills, knowledge and behaviours required in the context of a job role, as well as a focus on the relevance of English and Maths.

The process has also helped us to look at the expectations around work experience and engagement with employers, which has resulted in us developing the role of Enterprise Advisors by curriculum area.

Our continuing collaborative work with staff ensures that our next Skills and Careers Programme Plan aligns with the quality assurance cycle and the student journey, becoming a natural development within the business planning process.

Initial indications suggest we’ve achieved positive reinforcement of careers guidance from all staff and students across the college.

Our biggest challenges

Our biggest challenges have been around developing a sustainable model that is embedded across the college and is accessible to all.

What we learned

It was vital to involve colleagues from across the college, to ensure that responsibility and accountability was transparent. We scheduled fortnightly meetings with curriculum directors and managers to promote the context of the plan and embed this into the business planning process.

Top takeaways

Acknowledge the diversity and social mobility of your students and recognise that ‘one size does not fit all’, so build flexibility into your programme.

Early buy-in and agreement from senior leaders provides a springboard for the careers leader to accelerate action plans.


Visit Newcastle College’s careers portal at ncl-coll.ac.uk/careers

Read the latest Skills and Careers Programme Plan for 2019/20

Find out more about North East Ambition at northeastambition.co.uk

Home / careers guidance

Newcastle pupils partner with Port of Blyth to put learning into action

Students and teachers at Newcastle’s Excelsior Academy have been using applied learning to strengthen the links between schools and employers.

Holly Knox, Assistant Principal of Hadrian School at Excelsior Academy, talks about the school’s recent visit to the Port of Blyth and how it has helped students to apply classroom learning to real life.

We took two groups of our year 7 and 8 pupils to The Port of Blyth as part of their current project about renewable energy. The pupils have been focusing on the themes of renewable energy and climate change, and this visit to the Port of Blyth helped them to see some real-life applications of what they’ve been learning as well as being an opportunity to find out about STEM careers in the energy sector, which is one of the main growth sectors in the region.

Although we’re based in Newcastle, just a few miles from the sea, some of our pupils had never been to the coast before and many of them didn’t know that renewable energy equipment like wind turbines are developed and tested here in the North East. We wanted our students to be able to see for themselves how the North East plays a key part in the renewable energy sector, to find out about the different people who work in the sector, and to think about their own futures and the types of careers they might be interested in.

On the day, we had a tour of the Port, met people who worked in different jobs within the organisation, and we were able to see the technology and machinery in action, including the equipment which is used to dig the trench for the cable that stretches along the seabed all the way from Blyth to Norway. We also completed a hands-on challenge where pupils built their own mini wind turbines and competed to see which group could generate the highest voltage.

They came away enthused and excited about what they’d found out, and absolutely buzzing about what they achieved in building the mini turbines. The visit really inspired them and some of the equipment they saw in action was beyond anything they’d imagined.

Everything we did on the day linked with what we’ve been teaching in the classroom and back at school, the students are continuing to talk about what they learnt on their visit and connecting what they’ve seen with what they’re learning. Every day they are asking questions linked to the visit and we’re reflecting together on what we saw and heard, and what we now know about renewable energy in the North East.

It really was quite empowering for both the pupils and the staff involved and we will be repeating this project with our next cohort of students and we hope to build on this connection we now have with the Port of Blyth.

Holly Knox, Assistant Principal of Hadrian School at Excelsior Academy.

Excelsior Academy is one of three North East schools taking part in a pilot of project based learning.

Project based learning is designed to make learning in the classroom relevant to the world of work, embed careers information into the curriculum and equip young people with skills for 21st century careers.

It is part of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Education Challenge and delivered in partnership with Edge Future Learning. It draws on a model developed by Ford Next Generation Learning in United States who are sharing their experience and expertise.

Find out more about the Education Challenge programme.

Home / careers guidance

Parents and students get a taste of careers in the energy sector

A group of parents and students from two North East schools have spent the day visiting Newcastle College Energy Academy in North Tyneside and businesses at the Port of Blyth in Northumberland, meeting people who work in the energy sector and finding out about some of the different career paths open to them.

The day was part of the North East Energy Safari, organised by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which aims to help both parents and students find out about the varied career opportunities within the energy sector in the region.

Tom Gallon, Industry Alignment Support Officer at the North East LEP, said: “One of the aims of the day was to ensure that parents as well as their children understand some of the new opportunities across the North East, particularly in the energy sector, where these jobs weren’t necessarily here five years ago.”

“It’s really important that we had both parents and students there, because parents are still the primary influencers and if they can see those amazing opportunities they’re going to support their child fully, and ensure that everyone has that equality of opportunity.”

After the visit, Luke, a year 9 pupil, commented: “It’s a lot easier when we go to the places because you can have a look at exactly what they’re doing and the environment that they work in, so it’s preparing me for when and if I do go into that job.”

Parents who attended on the day said: “Today’s been really informative, we found out so much more about the career paths for our kids, not just university or academic learning.”

“We didn’t realise how much was going on in the energy sector and it’s actually quite surprising how much is available for both males and females to do.”

Watch this short film of the day to hear more from some of the parents, pupils and employers who took part:

This event was part of the North East LEP’s Education Challenge programme, which aims to reduce the gap between the North East’s best and lowest performing schools and to integrate an understanding of the world of work and career opportunities into the curriculum.

Find out more about the Education Challenge programme.