In his keynote speech to delegates at the TES-Ecctis 2000 National Career Teachers' Conference in London, higher education minister Tim Boswell drew upon the wisdom of the ancient Greek historian, Solon.
"He said: 'I grew old always learning something'. I think this is the motto for us in the future," said Mr Boswell.
The conference, held in conjunction with the Direction 95 Schools Fair which attracted 5,000 children on the first day, addressed the vital role careers guidance must play in preparing both young people and mature students for the world of work.
Mr Boswell said: "The impressive range of provision post-16 reflects the growing demands of students for courses and programmes tailored to their needs.
"But we would be doing them and the country a disservice if we did not provide them with careers education and guidance to equip them with the knowledge, understanding and skills they need for effective decision-making and career planning. That is why careers education and guidance forms an important part of the education and training chapter of the second competitiveness White Paper Forging Ahead."
The White Paper calls for legislation to clarify in law what careers education and support schools must provide and how teachers and the careers services are to work together.
Ministers concede that changes in the way schools are managed and the removal of the careers services from local education authority control have left schools and colleges in a state of uncertainty.
The proposed legislation would require all secondary schools to give careers education at levels appropriate to the needs of individual pupils at 14 and 16. It would also detail the information schools should give pupils on work- based and further education options.
A joint consultative paper from the Department for Education and Employment Department on ways of improving guidance is being sent to all chief education officers and heads of Training and Enterprise Councils and the careers services.
Sir Christopher Ball, chairman of the National Advisory Council for Careers Education and Guidance, told the careers conference how young people must achieve and sustain "work readiness" in order to gain a place in the workforce of the future. They needed to achieve a level of learning quality, the habit of learning and be prepared to move where work was available.
Tamsyn Imison, head of Hampstead Comprehensive School in London and one of four panellists discussing the key relationships between the education of individuals and competitiveness of the country, unveiled a 10-point plan for the schools of tomorrow, who must prepare their students to be effective world competitors.
"We need to be fearless, take risks and innovate," she said. "We must have a mission, a strategy for achieving it and ambitious targets by which we can monitor success. We must support students' independent learning using peer counselling, work reviews, target setting and Records of Achievement."