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Careers education was thrown into the spotlight at the end of last year with the publication of the Government’s long awaited Careers Strategy.

Developed as part of the wider Industrial Strategy, a number of recommendations are made for schools and colleges. It aims to ensure that young people are given quality careers advice and guidance, while meeting the needs of a changing economy.

It is undoubtedly a time of real change for the whole country, with the need for skills and skilled employees greater than ever before. And nowhere is this challenge being felt more than it is in London.

Rapid growth in the construction, healthcare and digital industries in the Capital is being set back by the widening skills gap. This must be addressed, which the new strategy hopes to do. However, with society continuing to value academic education over technical training – it is no easy task.

As Skills Minister Anne Milton says: “…raising the quality of careers provision requires a truly national effort”. And key to this is buy in from employers and universities – with high quality progression routes being made available across the board.

The good news is that much of what’s set out in the strategy is already happening in many institutions across London. Colleges are putting a real emphasis on ensuring students are career ready, from providing high quality work experience opportunities to setting up employer boards to help shape the curriculum. It has never been more important for educators to engage with industry and Colleges are leading the way here.

Colleges also offer vital part time and the more traditional day release opportunities. These flexible programmes enable people of all ages to upskill and reskill, which must be developed and encouraged.

Career success is reliant on good progression links. Whether a student choses to move into HE, onto an apprenticeship or directly into work – high quality pathways must be available. Our College is part of a MAT and our seven schools work closely to ensure students not only have access to progression routes but are well informed of options.

Another crucial aspect when looking at careers education is the Baker Amendment – new legislation requiring all schools to allow colleges and training providers in, to talk about the alternative education options available. This is a hugely welcomed move but I am sceptical that a mechanism to enforce this legislation will not be in place. What exactly will happen to schools who refuse to let their local college or technical school in to talk about vocational and skills-led routes?

Initiatives like the London Ambitions programme, which focuses on bringing teachers and businesses together, are vital and should be replicated nationally.

Developing world class careers education must be made a priority. London has to be at the forefront of this if our economy is to continue to thrive.

Sam Parrett OBE is Principal and CEO of London South East Colleges.

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