It’s National Careers Week, which provides an excellent opportunity for schools and governors to think about how they’re supporting children and young people for life after school. Our CEO Louise Cooper talks about the importance of work-related learning and early action when it comes to careers – and how governors can help prepare young people for their future.

children studying STEM in school

Young people today face a number of pressures – from the usual pain points of homework, friends, and growing up – to the modern challenges of navigating social media and a changing work landscape thanks to technological change. Thinking about how they’re going to make a living throughout their adult lives may not be top of the list. But teaching children about careers and including work-related learning from primary school can set them up for the world of work, giving them the tools and confidence they need to succeed.

I’ve changed jobs many times over the course of my career. I started my working life as a management consultant in the private sector and worked for a number of different organisations in a variety of roles. I then made the move to the third sector, to education, bringing the skills and insight I’d developed over the years to a new sector.

What’s helped me with each move is being clear about my strengths and the skills I wanted to learn. With any career move, it’s also important to be resilient – with lots of change comes the need for flexibility. Children at school now will work for longer than previous generations, with the opportunity to work in a number of different roles, probably spanning several careers. Over the course of their career, flexibility and attitude will be just as important, if not more so, than the technical skills each role requires.

Helping children develop these attitudes is a large part of schools’ careers strategy. Thinking about careers doesn’t mean children need to know their exact future profession and the path they’ll take to get there before they reach 18. Instead, careers education is about giving children confidence in achieving their goals and the opportunity to explore options they otherwise might not be exposed to.

As was highlighted in the NESTA education summit last week, secondary schools now have a duty to provide careers advice, guidance, and experience for children across all years. Schools have a clear outline of how their careers strategy should look and what it should achieve with the Gatsby framework – which is where governors can add value.

One of our volunteers, Nadia, an engineer and governor in Newcastle, is passionate about encouraging girls to take STEM subjects. Working in a male-dominated industry, she’s determined to get more girls into her profession by showing them what’s possible and to make it easier for them than it was for her. Nadia’s experience is valuable and will open doors for girls that may otherwise not have considered a career in STEM, proving that governors can give personal guidance while more broadly shaping the direction of a school.

The Gatsby framework includes introducing work-related learning to the curriculum, giving children the chance to experience elements of life at work, and frequent encounters with employers and employees. Our own volunteers recognise the value their experience and connections can bring to a school.

Teresa, who has been awarded an OBE for her services to young people, became a governor to encourage children of all backgrounds to reach their potential. Growing up, she didn’t have role models she could look up to. She said “Children and young adults need to be inspired early on in their lives. It’s so important that they see people of their own gender and ethnicity and background in senior roles – it helps them to aspire and dream and know things are possible.”

Jessica, a governor and businessperson in Manchester, said “A lot of the young people I meet don’t have the natural networks many children of professionals do – they have to make their own. Businesses have a role to play in helping them access ideas, opportunities and jobs. I think we have an obligation to the communities we live and work in to provide that.”

National Careers Week is a great time to think about what you could bring to a local school. Hundreds of schools across England lack connections to businesses, yet governors can bridge the gap between the current and future workforce, helping children on the path to success.


 How can current governors support careers strategy in schools?

We’ve developed an e-learning module to help governors bring an effective careers strategy to their school. Start the module for free at any time.

We’re holding a webinar in partnership with the Careers and Enterprise Company on Thursday 7th March from 4-5pm, about careers strategy in schools and what governors need to know. Register for the webinar or if you can’t make it, the session will be posted on our website shortly after.


If you want to support children in your local area, becoming a governor is a great way to put your business connections to good use. Your guidance and know-how could transform careers provisions in schools, creating opportunities children wouldn’t have otherwise and preparing young people for the world of work.