skills shortage

If you’re expecting to read an exposition on F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, you may be disappointed. The context here is around the Gatsby Benchmarks which may prove to be the turning point in careers guidance at our schools that many employers have long hoped for. 

At the top of concerns for almost every engineering and manufacturing business is the difficulty they face in recruiting the skilled people they need to grow and prosper. Business owners and business managers have for decades been saying that they either can’t find people with the right skills, or they can’t even find the young people to train in those skills. The result? Great careers go begging and business growth (and even business survival) is called into question.  

Part of that skills shortage can be attributed to the scarceness of good careers advice available in secondary schools. To say the problem runs across the board would be unfair, but up until recently, provision has been patchy, with no central resource to drive consistency or raise standards. The lack of a connection between subject choice as a means to following a career needs much more work, particularly if we are to address the gender imbalance. A particular concern is how few female students enter the engineering profession, which means that both they and the engineering sector miss out. 

The Gatsby Benchmarks 

In December 2017, the Department for Education released a new career guidance strategy which puts the Gatsby Career Benchmarks front and centre. 

The eight Gatsby benchmarks for good career guidance are: 

  1. A stable careers programme
  2. Learning from career and labour market information
  3. Addressing the needs of each pupil
  4. Linking curriculum learning to careers
  5. Encounters with employers and employees
  6. Experiences of workplaces
  7. Encounters with further and higher education
  8. Personal guidance

Every school is now required to begin using the Gatsby benchmarks. In fact, since September 2018, schools have been required by law to publish details of their careers’ programmes, as well as having a named ‘careers leader’ to oversee the process. 

By the end of 2020, schools will be required to offer each pupil at least seven ‘meaningful encounters’ with employers during their school career and must meet all eight benchmarks. 

There are some great local initiatives going on – Stem Sussex being one of them (see for details of events and opportunities). 

Another organisation offering taster courses of up to a week is the Smallpeice Trust ( who run a ‘Dare to Imagine’ programme - well worth investigating for Year 8 to Year 12 students. 

What Employers Should do 

For industry, the priority has to be around connecting with schools, Sixth Forms and Further Education Colleges to influence the careers debate, help teachers and to understand the opportunities that exist for their students. 

Some teachers have no experience outside of the classroom, so reaching out, offering visits or having the opportunity to put a stand up at a careers fair can go a long way. The schools will be striving to meet their Gatsby obligations, so hopefully the process of engagement will be a lot simpler than it has been up to now. 

By engaging, we can help our schools to link their curriculums to careers before GCSE choices are made, which should help to improve the available talent feeding through to the work place with the kind of educational attainment the industry needs.

For more information on careers guidance and the Gatsby system visit


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