Benefits for young people
When done well, young people can benefit enormously from their schools and colleges working with employers. They enjoy the activities involved and find that it helps them to understand the importance of what they learn in class. More than this, by showing the relevance of learning to future lives, it motivates them to study harder, helping to improve attendance, behaviour and achievement. When employers work well with schools and colleges it makes a difference to young people. It helps them to achieve more and to develop those skills which are most in demand by modern employers.
"Students have commented on the extra enjoyment and depth offered to their learning from being taught by specialists in the field of business. They tend to feel happier in their schooling generally and this leads them to improved behaviour. I'm also well aware that staff have gained a huge amount from association with the world of business and finance. It's clarified their thinking and sharpened up their practice. So because they're more confident in the classroom, there are improvements in learning outcomes." Alison Beer, Headteacher, Worthing High School
Enjoyment of learning
Young people of all ages enjoy work-related learning and opportunities to engage with employers. Polling shows consistently that young people are interested, and value, work experience, visits to workplaces, opportunities to speak to employers, and engage in enterprise activities.
Motivation to learn
Given what is known about the preferred learning styles of young people, such positive attitudes are not surprising. The mammoth 2006 National Foundation for Educational Research review of more than 300 research publications on young people perceptions by Pippa Lord and Megan Jones found:
- real-life connections are important in creating relevance for students
- students value expertise highly in subject knowledge
- students welcome sessions with professionals from within the field.
Student views on increased motivation
Surveys of young people show that young people recognise the value of work experience especially in helping them to understand the importance of learning at school to future employment. A 2007 poll by the then DCSF (now DfE) of 8,000 students who had just finished work experience showed:
- 90% agreeing (with 50% strongly agreeing) that they understood better why it is important to do well at school
- 89% agreeing (with 42% strongly agreeing) that they were more prepared to work hard in lessons and coursework.
Ofsted views on increased motivation
In two teaching areas which involve especially close working with employers, Ofsted inspectors have also found compelling evidence of young people responding positively to employer engagement in their learning.
Teaching of the Diploma depends on employers working with teaching staff to bring learning to life through development of course materials, classroom and workplace visits and work experience. Ofsted's 2009 review of Diploma teaching at 66 schools and colleges found that the best examples of partnerships with employers provided students with "a range of inputs and visits, which significantly enhanced their learning and enthusiasm for the subject". Where teaching was at its best, young people "were participating in… well-planned visits, supported by learning in the classroom which involved teachers and employers. Students were enthused and motivated by these practical learning opportunities."
Ofsted's 2007 review of the Young Apprenticeship programme was based on visits to schools and colleges in 54 partnerships and found similar reactions among young people. Aimed at average and above average ability students aged 14-16, Young Apprentices follow a curriculum rich in work-related learning and take 50 days work experience over a two year course of study. "In almost all the partnerships throughout the three years of inspection, "the inspectors concluded, "students have been enthusiastic, well motivated and well behaved".
The improved aspirations of students
School-based activities that involve employers can also improve the aspirations of children and young people. The then DCSF's 2007 survey of 8,000 work experience students found, for example, that 75% were clearer about what they wanted to do in their future careers after the placement.
Focus groups of young people from Black and Minority Ethnic groups show that positive images gained of scientists on work placements help to outweigh negative media images. Many schools feel that young people engaging in enterprise education are more likely to consider self-employment or setting up their own businesses.
At primary level as well, the effect is felt. The 2008 evaluation of the Time to Read scheme, where employee volunteers came into Northern Ireland primary schools to listen to students aged 8-11 read, found school principals confident that the scheme had a strong impact on student aspirations for the future, as well as improving self-esteem, reading ability, social skills and enjoyment of learning.
Employer participation in careers education, information, advice and guidance can transform young people's knowledge and understanding of pathways to learning and work.
Improved student attainment
Young people enjoy the opportunities that they get to work with employers. They are motivated by them, thinking more critically about their future career options and seeing more clearly the relevance of their school or college work to future employment. It is unsurprising, then, that there is growing evidence of related measurable improvement in exam results.
A 2008 literature review commissioned by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (now the Department for Education), for example, highlighted studies of five particular UK and US programmes of employer engagement. The initiatives involved a range of activities including student mentoring, job shadowing, employer engagement in curriculum development and employer participation in classroom discussions. Using robust social science methodologies, each programme provides real evidence of young people doing better in exams and assessments as a result of the roles that employers played.
Increased employability in the 21st century
Employers are also uniquely well placed to help young people develop the new attitudinal skills most in demand by modern employers. Demand for skills is changing. As the economy changes, employers are placing increasing value on the attitudes that young people bring with them into the workplace.
"In a flexible and fast changing economy, it is essential that all employees possess the generic employability skills demanded by employers if they are to contribute effectively." Time Well Spent, CBI
The CBI argues, and many employers agree, that work experience, when done well, provides a hugely helpful insight into the world of work. Time Well Spent, a 2007 employer survey by the CBI showed that work experience played an important part in developing the personal skills and attitudes that employers most highly value: self-management, team working, business and customer awareness, problem solving, communication and literacy, application of numeracy amd application of IT.
After they've completed work experience, overwhelming majorities of young people agree that they have: a better understanding of the skills that employers are looking for (94%), of the personal qualities that employers are looking for (94%) and had a chance to develop and display such skills on their placement (87%).
It is this understanding that is behind the significant recent growth in Government support for school-based qualifications and activities that encourage teachers to work with employers to help young people develop those skills most valued by employers. Diplomas, Young Apprenticeships and enterprise activities are provide important new opportunities for employers to work with schools and colleges to better prepare young people for life.
- Keep in touch with the growing research base on benefits to young people by visiting the website of the Education and Employers Taskforce and registering for the regular newsletter.
For further evidence of how it makes a difference see Research Reports.