Taking the Lead: Top tips for Careers Leaders preparing for September 2018

By Chris Webb, CEIAG Coordinator/Careers Adviser at The Ruth Gorse Academy

As the conclusion of the academic year rapidly approaches, there is a looming challenge for careers practitioners in secondary education – tinkering and developing their school’s careers provision prior to September 2018, in order to bring it in line with the DfE’s new Careers Strategy, released in January of this year.

While many schools will already have a robust careers policy in place, possibly even tied in directly to the Gatsby Benchmarks for good careers guidance, this September is the first time that all schools have been asked to start on this journey, so what better time to take a look at the key areas that every new Careers Leader will need to consider ahead of the Autumn!

Get the know-how

There is currently a huge amount of support available for prospective Careers Leaders from organisations such as the CDI, Trotman and the Careers and Enterprise Company. Becoming a member of the CDI or even a school affiliate gives you access to a huge range of CPD and resources, including their Careers Leader job descriptions and both the CEC’s publication on Careers Leadership and Trotman’s Careers Leader Update mailing list provide a wealth of useful hints and tips. Training and development will be vital for any Careers Leader, so take a look at training programmes aimed specifically at Careers Leaders, such as the CDI Certificate in Careers Leadership, the Teach First Careers and Employability Leadership Programme and the CEC’s recently commissioned Careers Leader Training – these programmes vary in price but some schools may receive financial support or even be given access to this training for free, so make sure to inquire with the organisations first!

Set your gameplan

A great place to kick-start your careers programme is undertaking the Compass tool for evaluating how many of the Gatsby Benchmarks your careers provision currently meets – be as brutal as possible in answering the questions, so that you have an honest reflection of where your strengths lie and what you need to improve going forward. You could even compare results with other local schools for an idea of common areas that need to be worked on! When it comes to planning your careers programme for the year, don’t feel like you have to go it alone – there exists a wealth of free and costed resources to help you develop an effective careers programme for all year groups, including the CDI’s Careers Education Framework, the WorldSkillsUk Careers Planning Toolkit and the CASCAID Careers Toolkit, as well as careers software packages and data management systems that vary in price, an extensive list of which can be found on the CDI website. No one person has a monopoly on great ideas, so asking teachers, SLT, governors, parents and most importantly, students, what they want to see in their school careers programme is always a useful starting point!

Raise the profile of CEIAG

The stereotype of a careers practitioner being tucked away in a cupboard in a forgotten part of the school is an enduring one and a barrier that must be overcome in order to forge a whole-school approach to careers – getting ‘out of the cupboard’ by delivering year group assemblies, extra-curricular activities and partnering with curriculum teams on school trips and open days/GCSE options evenings can be a great way to get yourself known around the school and raise the profile of what careers is all about. And of course, don’t forget to make National Careers Week a truly buzz-worthy event by creating a poster display in a prominent location, detailing all of the great careers-related events and activities you ran in the previous year!

Squeeze every penny!

With school budgets stretched, Careers Leaders are aware of their financial constraints but also adept at making the most of the resources at their disposal. Schools Liaison teams and employer ambassadors from local and national colleges, universities and companies can support with careers activities and mentoring for students – STEM Ambassadors, Inspiring the Future, Speakers4Schools and the Young Apprentice Ambassadors Network are all great sources of volunteers! The free resources from Amazing Apprenticeships and National Careers Week are also well worth downloading!

Invite some friends to the party

An effective careers provision is a team effort and requires collaboration from careers practitioners, teachers, SLT, governors, parents, employers and other external stakeholders. Offering CPD sessions on topics like embedding careers in the curriculum is a great way to start showing teaching staff and SLT the benefit of a whole-school approach to careers, as is designating a link governor for CEIAG who can report back on the progress of careers at governors’ meetings and engaging parents/carers directly with the school careers programme by creating a careers page for student planners, requesting a section on the principal’s letter to parents/carers at the start of the academic year or releasing a weekly or monthly careers newsletter that can be emailed out to parents/carers. Re-writing your careers programme also gives you a chance to get local employers involved from the get-go – many schools are now using their Enterprise Adviser from the LEP or key employer partners to review their own careers strategies and identify key areas and careers-related events that they can support with throughout the academic year!

Come together, right now

Network, network, network – the role of a careers leader can be an isolated one, so take the opportunity to share best practice with fellow practitioners wherever possible. LinkedIn has some fantastic online communities, such as the CDI Careers Education Community, Careers Live and the CEIAG and Children and Young People’s Workforce Group. If you don’t have a local CEIAG network meeting like we do in Leeds, why not get the ball rolling and set up your own? If this feels too daunting, try and keep it simple and set up an internal careers network group within your MAT or group of local schools to share best practice once per term – you will find it really helps to put things in perspective!


Chris Webb is CEIAG Coordinator/Careers Adviser at The Ruth Gorse Academy, Leeds.  A registered career development professional and member of the Career Development Institute, Chris has previously worked for education institutions in secondary education, FE and HE as a Functional Skills Tutor, Study Programme Coordinator and Careers Adviser.

Sign up to the Careers Leader UpdateCareers Leader Update free e-newsletter to get useful
articles like this, free resources and more straight to your inbox each month
…and get this term’s sign-up offer!