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Posted: 5/9/2012
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Skills Funding Agency National Careers Service Website on Track to Meet the Needs of 20 Million Citizens

The National Careers Service for England is a United Kingdom (U.K.) government initiative. The Skills Funding Agency is responsible for developing the service, built around an interactive learning and careers website. Working with Microsoft Services and using Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 communications and collaboration software, the agency is confident that its site meets government expectations and the needs of 20 million users.

Business Needs

In 2011, John Hayes MP, Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, announced the development of an all-age careers service for England, which was launched in April 2012. The National Careers Service is an integral part of recent high-profile U.K. government initiatives to help boost jobs growth.

The service was developed by the Skills Funding Agency—a partner organisation of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which funds and regulates adult further education and skills training in England. The programme comprises three delivery channels. Harvey Starns, Programme Manager, Skills Funding Agency, says: “It offers face-to-face and community-based support, a telephony service, and a website—the primary channel to which most users will be directed.”

The site replaces Next Step, an earlier government careers website, and offers several improvements. Starns says: “The National Careers Service website aims to provide a better user experience and be more interactive, with video content and new tools.” The service gives citizens all the information they need to find work, including the right training and education, and help with building a curriculum vitae (CV). It offers advice on careers, skills, apprenticeships, and further education, targeting people aged 19 and older following on from the independent advice offered in schools.

The Skills Funding Agency had to build the site in a matter of months, but was also under pressure to comply with standards that govern public services of this kind. Among these is the Matrix Standard, referred to by Minister Hayes in his speech published on the Department for Business Innovation and Skills website. This is the quality benchmark against which organisations assess and measure their advice and support services that assist individuals in learning or work choices. Minister Hayes says that the Matrix Standard guarantees guidance is provided in a highly professional way and that the new National Careers Service “will exemplify those principles.”


To meet such high expectations, the Skills Funding Agency had to support the site with a resilient and flexible technology platform. It worked with Microsoft Gold Partners Capgemini and Trinity Expert Systems to build the site on Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010.

Microsoft Services was vital in helping the Skills Funding Agency get the best from the technology and comply with government guidelines for usability and quality. Gary Tucker, Head of E-commerce, Skills Funding Agency, says: “The Government Digital Service oversees digital content such as the Directgov website, to which we are closely linked, and sets standards we adhere to. These cover the way we target our market and how we construct the user journey.

“A usability expert from Microsoft Services helped us to develop the site in line with these recommendations. She helped us through the process of segmenting our target audience, identifying user needs and creating personas, building the site framework, and carrying out user testing. Even more importantly, Microsoft Services expertise and experience gave us the confidence to move forward.”

The Next Steps website was built on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, so the decision to upgrade to the latest release technology was straightforward. “We knew that our team could do much of the template manipulation in-house, and SharePoint Server 2010 is highly configurable and doesn’t rely on major deployments to make changes,” says Tucker. “Because of this, we have built a more flexible site that we can adapt to reflect the changing economy.”

The National Careers Service website helps the user open a Lifelong Learning Account. Starns says: “Users can work on their CVs, create action plans, find courses, contact advisers face-to-face or on the telephone, or engage in web chats. The site travels with them as they learn skills, get jobs, and define goals throughout their careers.”


Minister Hayes says that the government hopes to help people make better learning and career choices. The National Careers Service website, launched on schedule in April 2012, is expected to address this goal, boosting the employment potential for millions of citizens.

Expert assurance inspires confidence. With a direct line to the Microsoft Services team, the Skills Funding Agency has worked confidently to create a site that meets and exceeds the high expectations of government and the public. Starns says: “The site has been validated and assured by recognised industry experts in both technology and user experience. This reassures not just our business but also our ministers who have made a promise to citizens.”

Website to reach 20 million users. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills statistics indicate the National Careers Service will help 700,000 adults face-to-face each year. It will provide guidance by telephone for 370,000 young people and handle one million telephone advice sessions as well as 20 million online sessions. Tucker says: “The estimation that 20 million people will use the site shows how huge our aspirations are.”

Project supports government employment initiative. The site is designed to make it easier for people to find work in an increasingly competitive market. Starns says: “The site aims to help people become more employable—a major part of the government’s plan to bolster the economy.”

Site meets quality and usability standards. “With its seamless user experience, we’ve developed a website that is a gold standard model,” says Starns. “Not only have we met the needs stipulated by government departments, but we’ve used the right technology to deliver a service that’s responsive, flexible, and can offer true value to the National Careers Service.”

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview

Organization Size: 1500 employees

Organization Profile

The Skills Funding Agency is a partner organisation of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. It funds and regulates adult further education and skills training in England.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 4

Vertical Industries

United Kingdom

Business Need
  • Support and Services
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

IT Issue
  • Personal Productivity
  • High Availability
  • Customer Relationship Management


Capgemini U.K. Trinity Expert Systems