In any discussion of young people’s prospects in today’s labour market and what needs to change, the inadequacy of school careers advice usually looms large.
When we surveyed young people two years ago, fewer than one in four (24%) rated the careers advice they had received as good or excellent while 38% rated it as poor or unhelpful.
Effective, engaging careers education at school is essential if young people are to overcome barriers (such as a lack of family networks or support) and make the informed choices that will enable them to reach their full potential in the labour market.
To provide this, schools need the support and engagement of employers. A new research report published by Reed in Partnership on our Young Careers service seeks to both explore the employer experience of working with schools on their careers education and encourage more employers to get involved.
Young Careers is our name for two of the career cluster pilots devised by the London Government and funded by the European Social Fund.
It works with groups of schools in areas of high deprivation and higher proportions of NEET young people, to help schools put in place a careers strategy for the longer term, implement a rich programme of activities and build sustainable relationships with employers and higher education institutions.
So far, more than 11,000 young people have taken part in over 400 careers activities, with at least 500 teachers supported and over 700 work placements arranged via Youth Talent.
So what did employers have to say about their experience so far? We spoke to TfL, Addison Lee, BNP Paribas, Zurich, Marriott, the RAF and other employers. We found that:
• Every employer had a different business case for getting involved, but increasing workforce diversity, improving social mobility and developing the skills pipeline were key reasons for doing so. Employers are also keen to improve young people’s understanding of the careers (and apprenticeships) available in their sectors and challenge misconceptions.
• Competitions and challenges are particularly successful in engaging young people, employers reported, as were working in small groups and taking their own trainees and apprentices with them to schools.
• Building sustainable relationships with schools takes time and effort - good intentions can flounder on practical realities. Employers are very clear that an effective broker or facilitator can help them achieve this, while the role of careers leader or champion to lead activity in schools is crucial.
We include some tips for effective employer engagement in school careers education:
• Get senior support and buy-in for this work at your organisation
• Try to work with a school where there is a dedicated careers leader or champion
• Remember it is a two-way relationship - you need to find out how the school works and what it is trying to achieve
• Learn and refine activities as you go along using student and teacher feedback
• Take your own organisation’s young people with you
• Support your volunteers, brief them on what to expect and give them enough notice
• Find a good broker to support you to develop quality partnerships with a school or group of schools
• Get involved - it is very rewarding and enjoyable!
Sarah Welfare is Policy and Research Manager at Reed in Partnership.