It’s Who You Meet: Why Employer Contacts at School Make a Difference to the Employment Prospects of Young Adults

21 February 2012

This report published by the Education and Employers Taskforce examines youth unemployment within the UK and provides new statistical evidence which shows that the more young people (aged 14-19) come in to contact with employers whilst they are at school, the less likely they are to become NEET (19-24). The report draws upon results from a survey of 987 young people in Great Britain who responded to questions about their perceptions on employer engagement when they were in education between 14 and 19.

Read a copy of the press release

Read the full It’s who you meet: why employer contacts at school make a difference to the employment prospects of young adults

Watch It’s Who You Meet – Research Overview with Dr Anthony Mann

Key points summarised

  • Youth unemployment is a growing problem with long term consequences for those who suffer it.
  • While young people experience some disadvantage in the labour market in all countries, there are very considerable variations in levels of youth unemployment across the OECD countries.
  • Among the reasons why young people are disadvantaged in the labour market is that they often, in comparison to older workers, lack the skills, experience, job-seeking insights and networks relevant to available jobs.
  • OECD analysis demonstrates that those countries with education systems which offer combinations of classroom learning and workplace exposure linked to vocational pathways (as through the German-style apprenticeship system) typically experience much lower youth unemployment rates.
  • US research shows that where academic education pathways include considerable employer contacts that positive labour market outcomes are also be to found.
  • New British evidence shows statistically significant positive relationships exist between the number of employer contacts (such as careers talks or work experience) that a young person experience in school (between the ages of 14 and 19)   and: Their confidence (at 19-24) in progression towards ultimate career goals; The likelihood of whether (at 19-24) they are NEET or non-NEET; and Earnings if salaried.
  • The 7% of young adults surveyed who recalled four or more activities while at school were five times less likely to be NEET and earned, on average, 16% more than peers who recalled no such activities. The findings are not linked to highest level of qualification.
  • The literature suggests that such significant labour market outcomes are best explained by the increased social capital (access to sources of non-redundant, trusted information) enabled by employer engagement rather than by human capital accumulation.
  • Young people are known to be especially attentive to the views of professionals they come into contact with in educational settings and overwhelmingly agree that contacts help in career decision-making
  • Recent longitudinal research has highlighted the adult labour market costs of career indecision or unrealism at age 16 in terms of later risk of NEET status and lower earnings.
  • UK and US evidence suggest that access to employer contacts can serve either to complement existing social advantages or compensate for disadvantage – new UK research suggests that it may well be former pupils from independent schools who appear to gain most from current British experiences of employer engagement.
  • Evidence of wage premiums suggests a link between high levels of school-age employer contacts and ultimate workplace productivity – a connection which is endorsed by a rare recent British research project.


Sign up to join our newsletter. Stay up-to-date by email.