How Scotland’s career services of the future will work for all

There has never been a more important time for Scotland’s career services to support young people to reach their potential, writes Chair of the Career Review Programme Board Grahame Smith

THE Covid-19 pandemic has impacted everyone, but few have faced more disruption than our young people. The restrictions had a profound effect on their education, their employment prospects and their everyday lives – and that effect is multiplied further for those already facing disadvantage. 

Young people considering their future don’t just face uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Brexit, the climate crisis and increasing automation and digitalisation means the workplace is changing more rapidly than at any point in living memory. 

That’s why, through the Young Person’s Guarantee, the Scottish Government has committed to connecting every 16-24-year-old in Scotland with the opportunity of a job, placement, training or volunteering.

As part of this commitment, the national skills agency, Skills Development Scotland (SDS), is leading a review of the support our young people receive in making career choices.  

The review recognises that a wide range of organisations offer career support to young people. 

These include schools, colleges, universities and a range of other national and local bodies.

This Career Review will make recommendations to Ministers around the future of career support across this ‘careers system’ later this year.  

As the Chair of the Review Programme Board, there are key principles I believe to be critical in considering our future support to young people.

Firstly, we must listen to the views, needs and experience of the young people, parents and employers that use our services.  

Furthermore, we must co-design services with these and other stakeholders to ensure they meet expectations and deliver a world-class experience. 

Secondly, we must capture and learn from other nations. Scotland is not alone in the challenges faced and we must learn from the diverse range of responses other countries take in supporting citizens’ career choices.

Finally, we must adopt an evidence-led approach to truly understand what’s working about the current system, and where we need to improve.

The evidence tells us there is much to celebrate in how we currently support career choices for young people.

Unlike many other countries, Scotland has prioritised support for careers through a dedicated all-age career service.  


Our young people have access to careers advisers in every school in Scotland, and post-school through a network of career centres. 

The careers advisers that work in our schools, career centres and universities are professionals. 

Becoming a careers adviser requires a postgraduate qualification and there is a proven link between their proficiency and the quality and impact of services they provide.

Since its launch in 2010, Scotland’s My World of Work careers web service has also become embedded within our education system.  

The service provides high-quality career information and advice to more than 1.5million people each year. 

Almost 200,000 registered users access personalised My World of Work accounts every year to support their career decisions.

Another important factor in the way career services are delivered is the local partnerships between schools, local authorities and other public and third sector agencies.  

This includes the Community Planning and Local Employability Partnerships which provide the framework for joint projects, networking and information-sharing that enhances the services many users rely on.

While there are many aspects of the current careers system in which Scotland should take pride we must always strive for improvements. 
While many young people say the current system has served them well, this view is not universal. 

Others say services can be hard to access and do not always meet their needs, meaning they don’t feel equipped for the world of work.  
We also know that despite the quality of what is currently offered, it hasn’t made a sufficient contribution to the wider effort to reduce persistent inequalities and won’t be enough to meet the requirements and uncertainties of the future.

As a Programme Board, our aim is to offer recommendations for the future of careers services that will make a real difference to Scotland and its people. 

Our aspiration is that our recommendations, when published later this year, will command the widespread support and commitment necessary to make this a reality.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the review of career services in Scotland, including details of how to get involved, visit

Grahame Smith is the former STUC General Secretary and Chair of the Career Review Programme Board

Support and advice builds confidence for the workplace
WITH 12 now the average number of jobs millennials will have during their lifetime, gaining skills to navigate the changing career landscape is vital. 

That’s where Scotland’s world-renowned careers service, delivered by the national skills agency, Skills Development Scotland (SDS) comes in. 

Its nationwide network of qualified careers advisers work from centres, partner premises and every state secondary school in Scotland delivering career information, advice and guidance. 
Central to SDS’s work is helping people develop the career management skills they need to make and take ongoing career decisions and realise their potential throughout their lives. 


Girvan Academy pupils are among those who use the My World Of Work web service, which has gone from strength to strength since its launch in 2010


SDS was quick to adapt delivery of careers services in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and global lockdown. 

Director of SDS’s career service James Russell said: “Our advisers have maintained regular contact with customers, delivered our one-to-one targeted services, enhanced our online tools and information, held webinars and broadcasts and strengthened our community partnership and teacher resources. Our dedicated helpline also offers a valuable single point of contact for people of all ages.” 

SDS’s online career information and advice service My World of Work was accessed by more than 1.5 million users across 2020/21. 
What sets it apart is the range of tools to help people identify their skills, strengths and understand how their personality feeds into their career. The more tools someone completes the more personalised the service becomes, with accounts also including bespoke ‘to do’ lists for secondary pupils. 

While SDS supports people of all ages and at all stages, the organisation’s work in school increasingly focusses on engaging young people earlier in their academic life and supporting them into sustained employment. 

James said: “Global research shows earlier intervention is key for young people when it comes to making the most of their career, making informed choices and understanding all of the opportunities available to them. 

“Careers advisers work with each person to help them discover their strengths, identify their skills and consider where they want to go. The expertise and knowledge base our careers advisers have offers huge benefits to our customers. 

“In schools that’s a blend of group and one-on-one time.” 
Being part of the wider skills landscape allows for access to industry insight, projecting demand for future skills, with up to the minute labour market information at their fingertips. 

James added: “This information is particularly helpful in discussions with parents and carers when finding out more about the jobs or careers their young people are considering and moving into. 

“It’s a great way to reassure them their young people are on long-term sustainable career paths.” 

Careers advisers also play a role in local PACE (Partnership Action for Continuing Employment) teams, offering redundancy support for people and businesses in Scotland, which has been vital throughout the pandemic.  

SDS is already thinking about the future of the career information, advice and guidance ecosystem in Scotland.

This year it will publish a review of all career services on offer at the request of Scottish Government, working with partners to gather evidence which will feed into recommendations to take forward the implementation of all age career services across Scotland in line with the country’s Careers Strategy.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992