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Write a career education plan

This step-by-step guide can help careers teams or career development specialists come up with a career education plan to help integrate career education throughout their schools.

What is a career education plan?

A career education plan is:

  • a future-focused document providing a vision for careers education in your school, which links to the strategic direction of your school
  • an overview of all careers-related activities in your school, tailored specifically to your school’s needs
  • a living, working document that is easy for all staff to understand and is updated as you progress toward your goals.

"The career education plan provides a foundation for an ongoing programme. It clarifies the school's understanding of career education and how career education fits with various curriculum areas, subject selection and pastoral care. It includes links to the strategic plan and self-review cycle that provides a means of sustaining the developments."

Education Review Office, The CPaBL Initiative – Overview Evaluation, February 2009.


    What you'll need to develop a career education plan

    You will find it easier to develop a career education plan if you set up:

    • a careers lead team – this team will lead the process in the school
    • accountabilities within the careers lead team
    • support from senior management for the careers lead team
    • a consultation process – who will you need to get feedback from along the way?

    Step 1: Do your groundwork

    Before you start writing a career education plan (CEP), spend two to three months reviewing current programmes and gathering background information. You should:

    • meet as a careers lead team and establish responsibilities and time frames.
    • complete background reading on effective career education practice.
    • use the data information profile (DIP) to review what you are currently doing – this is your baseline data.
    • circulate questionnaires to teachers, students and parents to find out their views on current career education programmes at the school.
    • collate this information into a short, simple outline that shows where your school is currently at.

    Step 2: Develop a vision statement

    Your vision statement can be as simple as a single paragraph with bullet points outlining what you want students to take with them when they leave school. It should connect to, and be in line with, the school’s strategic approach and policy.

    When writing your vision statement, consider the following questions:

    • What are the schooling or year milestones for our students? What outcomes do we want for students at each of these points?
    • What skills and competencies do we want students to develop at school, and take with them when they leave?
    • How can we recognise successful career education outcomes for our students?
    • What is our school-wide delivery approach? How do we want to integrate careers education into school activities?

    In your vision statement, show how your career education plan will link with other important school planning documents. You can refer to:

    • the school's charter
    • the school's strategic plan
    • school policies related to career education
    • other school-wide initiatives (eg Te Kotahitanga, information literacy)
    • curriculum statements.

    Step 3: Provide an overview of your career education programme

    Two people sitting at a desk, looking at a computer screen.
    Keep a record of ideas you can't yet include in your programme. They can give you something to work towards

    An overview should communicate, at a glance, your school’s plans for career education at each year level.

    • Look at each schooling milestone and record what you are doing at each point or at each year level.
    • Include things you are doing now that you would like to keep doing.
    • Address any gaps you have found when reviewing current programmes.
    • Make a note of things you might have to stop doing, so you can make room for other activities. This will help prevent you from overloading your programme.
    • Keep a record of ideas you aren’t able to include at the moment. These can become your developmental goals for the future.

    In your overview, you may want to give information on:

    • a timeline or calendar for planning purposes
    • staff roles and responsibilities
    • how your pastoral care systems (eg form, house, dean) fit into the programme
    • how STAR, Gateway and/or Youth Apprenticeships programmes fit into your overall approach
    • how you will identify and engage at-risk students
    • how you will track students through school and after they leave
    • what career spaces, ICT and assets are available for the careers programme (or include this in financial reporting for the next step)
    • how you will engage with families and communities about careers.

    Step 4: Outline how you will evaluate and report progress

    Schools often find it difficult to evaluate their progress. Your data information profile can give you baseline data against which you can track your progress. However, you need to work out which measures are best for evaluating the outcomes you are most interested in.

    There are two types of evaluation to consider.

    Collecting evidence using summative data

    Consider using summative data such as statistics and student data to measure your progress. Before you think of new methods of data gathering, think about what data you currently have access to:

    • What data or scores do you already gather for the Ministry of Education and Tertiary Education Commission that could be used here?
    • What results do you receive from NZQA and other bodies that you could include?
    • If you need to start collecting data, what data would you like and what is the best method of collection?
    • What evidence will show that you are achieving the outcomes in your vision statement?

    Tip: Can your mathematics department help you with data-gathering methodology?


    Collecting evidence using formative data

    You also need to consider collecting formative data such as qualitative results, particularly about how things progress over time. Think about:

    • staff feedback about the programme
    • what themes or issues are cropping up in the feedback.

    Financial reporting

    You should also outline your financial reporting in this section.

    • How will you designate and allocate funds for career education at your school?
    • Is this sustainable?
    • Who is responsible for each delivery?

    Step 5: State your development goals for the future

    What does the school need to work on in the immediate future? Give four to five goals that your careers lead team have agreed require attention. To ensure goals are reached, outline an action plan for each goal that sets out:

    • what resources are needed to reach the goal
    • the timeline for achieving the goal
    • who is responsible for achieving the goal.

    Download the career education plan template

    This career education plan template is a guideline only, and you can adapt it to suit your school's individual needs and priorities.

    Example statements from career education plans

    Example of linking to strategic focus and policies

    "Within the schools strategic plan, career education is cited in several areas…Within the Vision and Core Beliefs section of the Strategic Plan, career education is mentioned in long-term goals, yearly objectives and proposed outcomes for students…"

    (Te Kuiti High School – extract from career education plan.)

    Example of overview of delivery programmes

    "Programme plan by year-level content: Year 9
      self-awareness/identity units: hauora/PE; social studies
      junior computing: careers website/CareerQuest
      university open day: targeted classes
      junior Māori career workshop (trial) etc."

    (Ngaruawahia High School – extract from draft career education plan.)

    Example of procedures and systems   

    "Tracking and support at Te Kuiti High School – recorded notes from twice-yearly interviews with students in Years 11-13."

    (Te Kuiti High School – extract from career education plan.)

    Example of a development goal

    "Junior students will have the opportunities to hear from Years 12 and 13 students ( what they have learnt so far, how they made subject choices, what they wish they had done differently, what their goals are currently)." 

    (Waitaki Boys' High School – extract from career education plan.)

    Example of evaluation and review

    "Informal formative evaluation – recording of programmes going on at once-a-term careers team meeting (minuted discussions)."

    (Ngaruawahia High School – extract from career education plan.)

    Example of accountability and reporting

    "Annual STAR report sent to Mr S Thompson, included in Careers Departmental Management document and CEP database."

    (Southland Boys' High School – extract from career education plan.)

    Example of financial management

    "Funding for the careers department is received annually through the CIG, STAR and Gateway. Both STAR and Gateway are tagged resources and must only be used for their particular purpose…"

    (Te Kuiti High School – extract from career education.)