New research shows employer engagement boosts young people’s employment prospects but those who have most to benefit, get it least

The new report, published with support from LifeSkills created with Barclays, sets out findings from a survey of 1,744 young British adults aged 19-24. The survey undertaken on behalf of Education and Employers Research working with Prue Huddleston (Professor Emeritus of the University of Warwick) by YouGov investigates the experiences of respondents as they engage in transitions which take them from education towards the working world. The focus of the report is on work-related activities commonly undertaken by schools and colleges to help prepare them for such transitions, relating specifically to employer engagement in education. The report sets out:
• Young adults’ recollection of school and college action to prepare them for the working world
• Young adults’ perceptions of how well their schools and colleges prepared them for working life
• Young adults’ perceptions on how schools and colleges could have better prepared them for the working world
• What schools and colleges did to help young adults succeed in the adult working world

Career boosts

The report finds that contact with employers between the ages of 11 and 18 gives young people a career boost later in life, but those who need it most get it least. Young people who reported the lowest level of employer engagement came, on average, from more disadvantaged backgrounds: those who received free school meals, whose parents had not attended university and whose highest qualifications were GCSEs (or level 2 equivalent) or lower. Moreover, young people reporting highest levels of engagement were more likely to go to independent and grammar schools, and go on to higher level qualifications. The report also found that variation in experience of employer engagement is heavily related to attainment levels and geographic region. The typical young British adult recalls just 1.6 engagements with employers whilst in secondary education.

Optimising impacts

Using statistical analysis, the authors found that young adults who found their school-mediated employer engagement activities ‘helpful in getting a job’, earned up to 16.4% more than peers who did not take part in any activities. Higher volumes of school-mediated employer engagement are associated with risks of becoming NEET reducing by up to 86%.
When thinking about what more schools could have done to prepare them better for adult working life, young adults would have welcomed greater preparation for employment from their schools and colleges – with greatest demand from young women and adults from disadvantaged backgrounds, and greatest demand for practical information and job-finding skills.
A majority of respondents felt that their schools and colleges had not prepared them well for adult working life, unless they engaged on two or more occasions with employers (see below). The more employer engagement recalled by respondents, the more useful they thought it was to them in making decisions at 16, in getting a job and applying for university.


Research table

Insights for policy and practice also emerge from the analysis. These relate to three key themes:
Quantity matters: greater volume of school-mediated employer engagement is associated with better economic outcomes, demonstrating relationships between the number of school-mediated teenage engagements with employers recalled by young adults and significantly reduced incidence of being NEET.
Quality matters: more highly regarded employer engagement is associated with better economic outcomes. Analysis presented here shows a consistent relationship between higher regard for school-mediated provision and adult economic outcomes. It suggests that the instincts of young adults were right: that the schools had prepared them better than comparator peers. Wage premiums in excess of 20% are found linked to higher volumes of employer engagement activities described, in general terms, as having been helpful.
Equity matters: access to school-mediated employer engagement is not fairly distributed. Arguably those with greatest need for employer engagement within education commonly received it least. Young adults who had experienced the greatest volume of school-mediated employer engagement activities came, on average, from more privileged backgrounds: from Independent schools, grammar schools, holding higher levels of qualification.
Read: Contemporary transitions: Young Britons reflect on life after secondary school and college

Read the BBC article: Work visits result in fewer young ‘Neets’