As the skills landscape in Scotland has changed, so too has the careers service at the heart of it.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) delivers Scotland’s careers service. And the national skills agency is driving forward career information, advice and guidance services in Scotland with the same innovation and expertise it’s applying to the likes of apprenticeships and skills planning.

“The work our careers teams are doing right now in schools and SDS centres across the country is helping to ensure employers can recruit the right people, with the right skills, at the right time,” said James Russell, Skills Development Scotland’s Director of Career Information, Advice and Guidance Operations.

“Helping young people in particular to understand what the future skills landscape will look like in Scotland is a huge part of the work of our staff.”

Professional expertise

SDS careers advisers train to postgraduate level in the same way as secondary school teachers. As with teaching, careers advisers must also carry out a probationary period once qualified. This gives them the chance to build experience and expertise with the close guidance of more senior colleagues.

James continues: “As your readers will know, robust career intelligence underpins all of SDS’s work, which of course includes career information, advice and guidance services.

“These aren’t just numbers or trends on a page either, advisers can talk to colleagues across the business to gain real-life insight on the varied range of jobs and industries.”

The approach of careers advisers is all about equipping young people with the career management skills they need to make informed decisions about their future, throughout their career.

James says it’s in future planning that this really comes into its own.

“Many young people will leave school and take on jobs that haven’t been invented yet. We help them to understand what this means, why it’s exciting and what skills they’ll need to navigate the future employment landscape in Scotland.”

 “SDS has a coaching approach to career information, advice and guidance.” James explains, adding it’s not about being prescriptive in any way.

“You’ll never hear a careers adviser telling a young person ‘no’ or ‘you can’t do this’ or trying in any way to force them down a certain path.

“It’s all about working with the individual to recognise their own strengths and skills, supporting them to work out what they want, how to get there and who can help them along the way.”

In school

Every state secondary school in Scotland has a SDS careers adviser working within it.

Pupils will see their adviser in class, one-to-one and at school events from their move into first year.

145,813 pupils in P7-S3 accessed face-to-face services in 2017/18, with 92,444 senior pupils doing the same.

One focus for SDS is on earlier intervention in the secondary school journey, when subject choices are made in second or third year.

“That’s a vital point for us,” said James, “we work closely with schools to ensure all the pupils going through subject choices get the support they need.

“Parents and carers can also get involved at this point, joining in with one-to-one meetings with careers advisers.

“Much of this discussion often centres around the variety of routes and pathways into careers, as awareness around the quality and breadth of apprenticeships on offer in Scotland, or enough about the college sector for example may not be high

“A careers adviser’s support helps to open up discussions and widen horizons.

“Last year 97% of pupils who had a subject choice interview told us they were satisfied with what it contained, that went up to 98.5% for the parents and carers involved, so we know it’s an approach that’s working well.”

In SDS centres

SDS careers support doesn’t stop at the school gates.

Its free, impartial services are also delivered in its network of high street centres to anyone who wants it, at any stage in their career. Professionally qualified staff also work out of an extensive range of partner premises. These partnerships mean people getting the right support, at the right time and from the right agency.

There’s also a helpline for individuals who’d rather talk over the phone. Every August the same helpline gathers careers advisers from across Scotland to staff the Exam Results Helpline. The vital service opens at 8am on results day to provide calm, impartial support for candidates receiving SQA results.

Careers advisers across the country also have a role in supporting people affected by redundancy. SDS leads Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) delivery, with local teams responding quickly to assist businesses of any size.

For employees, this includes advice on dealing with the practical and emotional sides of redundancy. That can include help to find and apply for jobs, managing money and claiming state benefits, support to review their career and identify training, business start-up advice and stress management.

Digital Careers Services

Access to SDS careers support is 24/7 on My World of Work, the online home for careers advice and information in Scotland.

Built to support the development of career management skills, registration allows for a personalised journey through the site.

Tools and tasks are suggested in response to user need backed by high quality resources such as film profiles of real people talking about what their job or industry is really like, vacancies and courses, and information on growth industries.

“My World of Work is also home to a wealth of classroom resources for teachers and lecturers, and our career resources for P5-P7 pupils,” adds James.

In recent years SDS has set up the My World of Work Ambassador programme in schools across the country. It sees pupils volunteer to act as champions for the web service and the help it can offer their peers, teachers, parents and carers. Each pupil gains valuable transferable experience and skills by taking part.

My World of Work is also where schools access employer opportunities via Marketplace, an online tool connecting business with schools and colleges.

James said: “Employer engagement with schools helps to build young people’s job readiness, increases their career options and offers employers the chance to shape young talent, address skills gaps and source their future workforce.

Employers register on OurSkillsforce and start passing on knowledge of their sector through workshops, talks, workplace visits or placements.

Developed in collaboration with regional DYW groups, it’s a way for schools and colleges to bring industry insight into the classroom.

James added: “At its heart, Marketplace improves engagement between employers and education.”

Find out more

If you want to know more about the work of Skills Development Scotland’s career information, advice and guidance services, go to

For more on the Marketplace and to sign up go to