International review of evidence of careers education published

25 Jul 2016

International review of evidence of careers education published

International review of evidence of careers education shows that poorer young people are more likely to have career aspirations that don’t match their educational ambitions, but that good careers education can make a real difference.

The report was covered in national media stories: read the TES article here, the Mirror article here and Elle article here. The findings were featured a few times in the Times -including here.


A report by Dr Anthony Mann, Director of Policy and Research at the Education and Employers Charity and  Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, Principal Research Fellow at the University of Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research provides an overview of the impact of careers education and how it shapes young people’s academic achievement and employment outcomes.

The review of international evidence was commissioned by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and funded by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and published on the 22nd July 2016. The report is authored by Deirdre Hughes, Anthony Mann, Sally-Anne Barnes, Beate Baldauf and Rachael McKeown. The researchers launched the report on Friday 22nd July at the International Conference on Employer Engagement in Education and Training.

The report showed that teenagers who underestimate the education needed to get their chosen job are more likely to end up not in education, employment or training and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are disproportionately more likely to have career aspirations that don’t match their educational ambitions. However, it found that good-quality careers education can make a real difference to academic, social and economic outcomes.

Drawing on nearly 100 different studies, the researchers found that teenagers who have a good understanding of what they need to do to achieve their career ambitions and who combined part-time work with full-time study do a lot better economically later in life than their peers.  However, they found that teenagers from poorer homes are more likely to be uncertain about the qualifications they need to access their chosen career and get the skills they need.

The review highlights that teenagers are much less likely to benefit from part-time work today than they were 20 years ago: the proportion of British 16 -17 year olds who have a part-time job while they’re still in education has more than halved, from 42% in 1997 to 18% in 2014.

Previous research by the Sutton Trust found careers provision in English schools to be a ‘postcode lottery’ where some young people ‘have access to much better career guidance than others’. There is a risk that a lack of good quality careers education will disproportionately impact on students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are perhaps less likely to have family or friends with the breadth of insight and expertise to offer informed advice, and who could be left poorly equipped in making decisions about their futures.

The authors argue that careers education, including first-hand experiences of the world of work alongside independent and impartial career guidance, is even more important to give young people the type of insights, exposure and experiences that will help them succeed in the world of work.

To help schools and colleges provide high-quality careers education for all their pupils, the authors analysed existing international and national research to identify whether there was strong evidence on the effectiveness of different types of careers education. They identified careers provision, job shadowing and work experience to be associated with positive economic outcomes in later life.

Recognising that the research literature in the field of career education is far from complete, the authors looked at the results of high quality studies offering reliable insights into the impact of careers education activities.  Considering studies from across the OECD countries, they found that 60% of studies of careers education interventions aimed at improving the educational outcomes of pupils (e.g. exam success) had largely positive impacts.  Two-thirds (67%) of studies looking for evidence of economic outcomes (e.g. higher adult earnings) and 62% of studies looking for evidence of social outcome (e.g. confidence and resilience) were also found to be broadly positive.  Of the other studies considered, many were found to have mixed results with some young people gaining benefits while others did not.

They also identified a number of characteristics of good careers education, including giving students the chance to network with professionals in different jobs and allowing them to explore the different careers paths and options open to them.

To fill the gaps in the evidence identified by the report, the EEF aims to work with key partners to fund a number of trials of evidence-based careers education programmes later this year, including the Careers & Education Company and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Dr Anthony Mann, Director of Policy and Research at the Education and Employers, said:

“The evidence we have considered is consistent and compelling in demonstrating that young people very often have a great deal to gain from activities organised by schools and colleges to demonstrate the links between the classroom and workplace.  The earlier schools can begin drawing this connection, the better.”

Dr. Deirdre Hughes OBE, Principal Research Fellow at the University of Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research, said:

“Clearly young people from poorer backgrounds are at a distinct disadvantage compared to those who attend independent schools where investment in careers education is a priority. More needs to be done to urgently rectify this situation in England’s schooling system.”

Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:

“High-quality careers advice can make a real difference to young people’s outcomes after school, particularly those from disadvantaged homes. It is more important today as fewer young people now work at weekends or part-time, missing out on essential life skills gained in the workplace.

“By summarising international research evidence on careers education, today’s report will help teachers and school leaders to make informed decisions about the advice and support they offer. The EEF hopes to add to the evidence-base of what makes effective careers provision by funding more randomised controlled trials of evidence-based careers programmes.”

Anthony Harte, head of community engagement, EMEA at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said:

“We recognise the importance of research in developing evidence-based responses to solving social and economic challenges. This is why, Bank of America Merrill Lynch is proud to have commissioned this extensive piece of research to strengthen our understanding of the effectiveness of careers education. We hope the results will be used by others to inform further research and will help increase support to those initiatives which are improving careers education.”

Download the report here: Careers review

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