Supporting Parental Engagement in Career Guidance

Our work to support good career guidance, as schools and colleges embed the Gatsby Benchmarks, has led us to further explore the role of parents*, carers and guardians in the career guidance of their children.

Supporting Parental Engagement in Career Guidance

It is widely recognised that a young person's parents are one of the most powerful influences on their career and education decision-making. However, it can be difficult to fully understand the variety of pathways which lead to different occupations, and parents may not feel fully informed about all education routes and the reality of modern-day jobs and industries. The landscape of technical education is also undergoing significant change, including the introduction of T-levels. Therefore, as well as ensuring that young people have access to high quality career guidance, we need to give parents the same opportunity to learn more about different pathways and careers.

Career guidance is particularly important for those young people without the social capital to support them to explore the labour market and make informed decisions about courses and occupations, but equally, parents with high social capital may not be aware of the range of options available. We want parents to understand and embrace the important part they can play alongside schools and colleges in supporting their children.

Gatsby is therefore committed to exploring how best to provide information and support to parents, via schools and colleges, to help their children (age 11 -18) make decisions about education options and future careers. We started this work with a programme of research to understand existing practice and the needs of parents, students and schools and colleges, and fund a national partnership to further develop and share this work.

*When using the term parents throughout this page, we are also referring to carers and guardians.



  • A series of studies with Opinium to investigate parents’ attitudes and experiences around supporting their children’s education and career choices. This includes a large market research report on evidence gathered most recently from autumn 2020, and highlighting changes since 2019. The report also analyses the parent audience in terms of their views and communication preferences, to help inform programmes of support in schools and colleges.

  • Further research with Opinium from summer 2020, exploring how parents’ attitudes have been influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Information on the findings from this research can be found here.

  • A 2019 literature review by the University of Warwick to understand current practice in parental engagement, in the UK and internationally.

Piloting and national partnership

Using insights from our programme of research, we have developed and tested a programme, Talking Futures, to help parents support their children's education and career decision-making. This included:

  • A website and reources developed to support parents with careers conversations and a direct communications campaign to promote this topic; and
  • Support for schools and colleges (including staff CPD, templates, activities and resources) to help improve parental engagement as part of their careers programme.

This support for schools and college was piloted with Careers Leaders across seven Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Combined Authority regions from January 2021 to April 2022, who adopted a selection of resources and tools and examined their impact. Despite the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of schools and colleges were able to improve and deepen their parental engagement activity during the pilot period. Evaluation data from parents and young people also revealed encouraging signs of impact including parents seeing a wider range of education options as suitable for their child, and basing careers conversations with their children on information received from school or college rather than just their own experiences.

The pilot informed refinements of the resources and support for Careers Leaders and how to embed parental engagement in careers successfully and sustainably. Gatsby used this work to inform a partnership with The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) to share Talking Futures with Careers Leaders across England from Autumn 2021-22. Activities, resources and CPD have been adopted by the CEC as part of their Resource Directory.

Sharing innovative practice in response to COVID-19

With schools and colleges adapting to deliver education remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, many reconsidered how they involve parents. In response, Gatsby and the Careers & Enterprise Company worked together with Careers Leaders to explore ideas and good practice for working with parents in new and challenging circumstances. Resources developed following these discussions are available here.

Supporting Parental Engagement in Career Guidance