The demand for adult career guidance in England: Market sizing against a typology of needs

7 December 2022 Chris Percy

Researcher Chris Percy writes about why there is a need to better understand the needs of those who would benefit most from adult careers guidance and how his recent work with the Gatsby Foundation supports this goal.

The demand for adult career guidance in England: Market sizing against a typology of needs

Change is in the air for adult career guidance, with new Secretaries of State in the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Education alongside new impetus from Sir John Holman’s review announced in the Skills for Jobs white paper.  

The Gatsby Foundation are the organisation behind the Gatsby Benchmarks for good career guidance in secondary education that have since become government policy in England and they also want to support a high-quality career guidance system for adults. Career guidance is a crucial component to help labour markets function well, contributing to wellbeing, reduced income inequality, fewer skills shortages, and improved employment and productivity.  

We can’t help adults access the best career guidance support and training without understanding the diversity of potential adult interest. Gatsby therefore commissioned me to investigate the largest scale datasets available to understand the different segments of adults that might benefit from career guidance, how many people are in each segment, their demographic and socio-economic breakdown, and what sorts of guidance needs example individuals might have. The result is eight new segments, in addition to the short-term unemployed segment which has long been a primary focus of attention in this area.  

An estimated 11 million adults were identified as potential beneficiaries of career guidance, based on data from 2018-20, noting that not every one of them would want to prioritise guidance at a given time. The report shines a spotlight on potential beneficiaries currently in work, including workers at elevated risk of redundancy due to their contract type or the risk of decline or automation in their occupation (4.5m), those who want new or additional work (3.5m), and individuals separately very unhappy at work (1.3m), such as those feeling very anxious or dissatisfied at work or very worried about money. With the labour market and economic changes since 2021, these numbers seem likely to have increased.  

As well as widely studied groups out of work, such as youth NEETs and the unemployed actively searching for work, there are also segments dedicated to those who want to work but are not currently able to seek work actively. Career guidance could play a much larger role with these segments than is currently the case. Some individuals may want to work but are focusing on responsibilities at home (0.3m), others may be health constrained (0.5m), but many other reasons exist as well, such as those who are retired or in education and struggling with what options could work for them. 

Gatsby intend for this typology to support further analysis, above and beyond the segments already analysed. The executive summary, along with the data pack, is published online via, with the full report available on request. The methodology, statistical code, and dataset details are contained in the report, to support future replications and extensions, along with details on potential priority segments that cannot be analysed in the available data. A 30-page data pack contains 14 one-page personas and detailed descriptive statistics on each of the eight segments. 

You can find out more about Gatsby’s programme of research into adults here.

If you would like a full version of the report, or if you would like to like to hear about the latest developments, please contact Thomas Shirt at  

The demand for adult career guidance in England: Market sizing against a typology of needs