A group of international careers leaders from Hong Kong have visited North East England to see how the good career guidance benchmarks have been successfully embedded within the region, and how they are improving outcomes for young people across the North East.

Organised by The Gatsby Foundation in partnership with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP), the visit saw career leaders, school principals and education experts from Hong Kong spend one week visiting schools and employers across the North East to see the good career guidance benchmarks in action.

Developed by The Gatsby Foundation, the good career guidance benchmarks are a set of eight benchmarks that serve as a framework for world-class careers provision. The North East region hosted the original Gatsby Benchmarks pilot between 2015 and 2017. In 2017, the Benchmarks were adopted as part of the government’s Careers Strategy for schools and colleges in England.

The recent visit from the Hong Kong delegation follows the implementation of an adapted set of 10 benchmarks. In Hong Kong, an initial pilot involving six schools has now expanded to 110 schools; approximately 25% of all schools in Hong Kong.

The group of careers leaders were invited by The Gatsby Foundation to see how deep rooted and embedded the Benchmarks are in the North East, and the positive impact this is having on the aspirations and career outcomes of the region’s students.

The visit will also form part of an international case study that will support Gatsby’s work on their ‘Good Career Guidance: The Next Ten Years’ report.

Ryan Gibson, Senior Adviser for Careers at The Gatsby Foundation and former National Facilitator of the Gatsby Pilot in the North East said “It was a pleasure to welcome career leaders, school principals and education experts from Hong Kong to England to learn from the excellent practice in our schools and colleges.

“The Benchmarks are based on international evidence of what works, and they represent a world class standard of careers provision. We are delighted to now be inspiring approaches in other countries.”

Matt Joyce, Regional Lead: North East Ambition at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Having delivered the original pilot, and now in our role supporting all schools and colleges in the region to achieve the good career guidance benchmarks, the North East LEP is in a unique position to show others how successful the Benchmarks can be in creating an institution-wide approach to delivering high quality careers education and guidance.

“As well as showcasing the great work happening in schools and colleges here in the North East, it’s been fantastic to learn from our international colleagues about the work they are doing in Hong Kong.

“A really important part of this visit has been demonstrating how the good career guidance benchmarks fit with the wider skills agenda; supporting students to be work ready and delivering the talent and skills employers need.

“It’s been a pleasure to host the delegation and show them the transformational impact of the good career guidance benchmarks.”

Stephen Yip, Director (Schools) for the Hong Kong Benchmarks programme said “This visit brings the next generation of career leaders to North East England to learn new ideas, strategies and the effective whole institution approach needed to effectively achieve the good career guidance benchmarks.

“Schools and colleges in North East England have taken a remarkable step up across all benchmark areas over the last three years. Such a leap is achieved because of both frontline practices and the overall infrastructure provided by the North East LEP careers hub; to ensure youngsters in the region receive the best careers education for future paths.

“We are all inspired by the best practices demonstrated by the visited schools and will implement them to our contexts with little hesitation. Perhaps the most impressive part of the journey is the confidence and the sense of agency shown by the students upon their career-related future. This is indeed the power of The Gatsby Benchmarks.”

Joanne Maw, CEO of Aspire North East Multi Academy Trust, said: “It was a privilege to welcome the careers professionals and school leaders from Hong Kong to Southmoor Academy and have the opportunity to share our whole school approach to careers education.

“Staff benefitted greatly from the opportunity to showcase their work and answer a range of thought-provoking questions. It was inspiring to meet such a dedicated team of leaders who are deeply committed to a holistic approach to student progression.”

To illustrate the importance of employee engagement in delivering the Benchmarks, the North East LEP arranged a visit to international energy company, Equinor, which has a base at the Port of Tyne in South Tyneside.

Tom Nightingale. North East Stakeholder Manager at Equinor, said: “It was fantastic to support the North East LEP and host the delegation from Hong Kong at Dogger Bank Wind Farm operations and maintenance base. Sharing knowledge around skills initiatives with other countries is essential to develop knowledge around areas such as Gatsby Benchmarks, where the region is already leading in delivery.”

Matt Joyce continued: “During the visit we were able to demonstrate the impact of the Benchmarks and the crucial role of career hubs in supporting schools and colleges to create world-class careers provision.

“The delegation has left with an understanding of the importance of positioning careers not only as part of education, but as a lever for economic growth.”

Through its North East Ambition programme, the North East LEP is supporting all North East schools and colleges to achieve the good career guidance benchmarks by 2024.