Careers education plays a crucial role in preparing young people for their future career paths and helping them achieve their full potential. Too many young people from low-income backgrounds face additional barriers to accessing high-quality education and opportunities. A Teach First analysis of Department for Education data revealed a significant destinations gap between pupils from disadvantaged areas and their wealthier peers five years after they finish their GCSEs. The data showed that:

  • 1 in 3 (33%) young people from poorer areas are not in sustained work or education five years after GCSEs, compared to 1 in 7 (14%) of their wealthier peers
  • young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are almost twice as likely to drop out of their A level course (13%) compared to non-disadvantaged peers (7%)
  • pupils from disadvantaged areas are more likely to end up out of sustained work or education (33%) than they are to go to university (27%).

Careers leaders can make a huge difference to young people by offering the key knowledge, tools and experience to help them make informed decisions about their future. There are three ways in which careers leaders can do this.

  1. Build business connections

By building local business connections, schools can support pupils by providing them with a diverse range of voices to give advice, offer insights and inspire future decision-making.

Careers leaders can do this in a variety of ways:

  • By making the most of their Enterprise Adviser (provided to schools by The Careers & Enterprise Company) whose role is to help make connections between the school and the world of work and make young people aware of different pathways and opportunities.
  • By making the most of the network of employers that the school already has and seeing how those organisations may be able to do more.
  • By drawing on alumni connections and inviting those keen to support back into school to share their more recent experiences of education beyond school and the world of work.

Careers leaders can also share access to their business connections with their local network of careers leaders to create more interactions between local employers and pupils.


  1. Offer virtual or blended work experience

Work experience is an important part of careers education, with nearly 4 in 10 (38%) businesses saying they consider relevant work experience when recruiting school and college leavers. However, for many young people, accessing work experience placements can be difficult, particularly if they live in areas where opportunities are limited or if they face other barriers, such as a disability.

As the traditional 9 to 5 working format has changed, work experience needs to evolve to reflect new ways of working. Virtual and blended work experience can be a low-cost, flexible way for young people to gain practical experience, and also allows young people to access opportunities with organisations and sectors that may not operate in their local area.

Teach First works with a range of organisations to connect them with schools that serve disadvantaged communities. We offer exclusive opportunities through our Careers Leader programme and Work Experience Programme to make sure that young people can access exciting opportunities that they may otherwise miss.


  1. Integrate careers in the classroom

All teachers can be teachers of careers. By embedding careers into the curriculum and relating subjects to different career pathways, teachers can make sure young people are aware of the different skills and knowledge they need to succeed.

This could involve a range of activities, such as:

  • Inviting guest speakers from different industries to talk about their experiences and offer advice. Forum Talent Potential encourages schools to create meaningful learning experiences in partnership with local employers. It has created a six-step process to help teachers think creatively about how they can reach out to employers to support them with bringing curriculum learning to life.
  • Linking subjects with careers. Organisations such as STEM Learning provide Primary, Secondary and Post-16 teachers with resources that cover STEM careers in the classroom. There is also a range of free careers posters linking career paths to different subjects available from Plantipus.
  • Incorporating skills development into lessons to ensure young people are prepared for the job prospects that await them. Several organisations such as Barclays LifeSkills and The Skills Builder Partnership have created free resources to support teachers in this area.

Making careers a part of pupils’ everyday learning ensures that all young people, regardless of their background, receive the same level of support and guidance.


Further support

Teach First has been providing lasting solutions and expert support for schools serving disadvantaged communities for 20 years. We have been running our Careers Leader programme since 2015 and have been an approved partner of the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) since 2018.

On our fully-funded Careers Leader programme, careers leaders are paired with a Teach First Careers Expert to create a three-year careers strategy personalised to their school’s context and unique needs. The programme trains the careers leader to confidently prepare other teachers in their school to deliver careers learning and helps them build successful partnerships with other schools and businesses, so all young people can access good careers guidance, no matter their background or circumstances.

Find out more about joining Teach First’s Careers Leader programme.