The transition from education to work has become increasingly complex. Young people have to navigate a vast array of educational and vocational choices as they progress towards their working lives. Within such an environment, the timely delivery of appropriate careers information, advice and guidance is critical. However, following withdrawal of funding for the Connexions Network in 2010 – a dedicated careers guidance service for young people – concerns have been expressed in England that the provision of career services is insufficient to address the needs of young people. In a recent study of 13,000 Year 11 students in England, less than two thirds of Year 11 pupils were found to have received careers advice. The research also found that the support was not reaching those in most need, including those with lower levels of social capital.

Within Wales, the provision of careers education with schools is supported by Careers Wales, a publicly funded national careers information, advice and guidance service. Established in 2012, Careers Wales supports the Welsh Government’s strategic objectives of ensuring the sustained progression of young people through education and into employment or further education/training. It has been tasked with reducing the number of young people who are outside the education, training or employment system and prioritising its support to those who are most at risk of becoming disengaged or not in education, employment, or training.

From a policy perspective, it is important to examine whether the apparent inequities in the provision of of careers guidance to school children in England are also observed in Wales. This issue has been examined in a project carried out as part of ADR Wales. The study has used the National Pupil Database (NPD) for Wales for Year 10 and Year 11 pupils between 2013-2016 combined data from Careers Wales who record information on interactions that they have with their clients. Data linkage helps us to see which pupils have benefitted from the support of Careers Wales.

Our analysis reveals that almost two-thirds of Welsh pupils receive support from Careers Wales during Year 11, increasing to 85% in Year 12. The analysis confirms empirically that Careers Wales is fulfilling its remit of supporting those pupils with the greatest needs, including those who are eligible for free school meals, have lower levels of academic attainment and have higher levels of absenteeism. These findings highlight a promising picture for the delivery of careers guidance in Welsh schools and the role of Careers Wales in providing these services. This data also opens up unique opportunities to examine the importance of careers education in supporting the transitions of young people following their completion of compulsory education.