New research shows link between academic achievement and encounters with employers

One in five secondary school students receive positive impacts on their academic achievement from encounters with the world of work, teachers believe say a new report by the charity Education and Employers

Read: Making the Grade

In this new report by the research team at Education and Employers, kindly supported by LifeSkills created with Barclays, the authors explore teachers perceptions of employer engagement activities such as careers sessions and work experience and how these activities can positively impact academic achievement.

The report outlines the findings of a new survey of 824 secondary school teachers, conducted by the independent polling organisation YouGov. The survey asked specific questions about what happens to young people after taking part in school-mediated employer engagement activities, such as careers fairs, work experience of job shadowing. Teachers were asked whether these activities have a positive impact on how a young person performs academically; why this positive impact occurs; and, which activities have the most impact.

An overwhelming majority of secondary school teachers (almost 93%), believe that participating in employer engagement, careers advice and work experience has a direct impact on improving exam results. In terms of pupil type, teachers believe girls, those uncertain about their future, higher and borderline achievers are more likely to experience positive impacts on their academic achievement. On average, teachers believed one in five students in a typical year group can experience positive impacts on their academic achievement after taking part in employer engagement activities.

The highest percentage of teachers believe that work experience has the greatest impact on improving academic achievement. Teachers also highlighted that careers fairs and careers sessions aimed at challenging ideas about careers and professions were the next most impactful.

The survey then delved deeper in to what teachers believed was driving this improvement in students’ academic achievement. Over half of teachers felt academic achievement can be improved by helping students understand the relevance of education to employment, as well as exposing students to new role models through employer engagement.

“Students aspire to achieve better grades when they know requirements of employers. Reality of employment, further education etc is usually well received from employers.” (Classroom teacher, Key Stage 5, London)

“The main element is that young people realise the reality of the work situation and if nothing else it gives them the incentive to achieve good exam results and lets them plan ahead for employment in the real world.” (Head of Department/Year, Key Stage 3, West Midlands).

These findings echo surveys of both teachers and students suggesting that any positive impact on achievement largely stems from attitudinal change– an enhanced regard for the value of education and qualifications improving motivation.

Dr Elnaz T. Kashefpakdel, Head of Research at Education and Employers and one of the report’s authors, noted:

“For many students, making a connection between the world of work and what they are learning motivates them to study harder. This translates into better exam results.”

“We often get asked whether there is a link to better academic achievement. This study indicates that there most definitely is a meaningful link.”

Kirstie Mackey, Director of LifeSkills at Barclays UK also commented on the findings:

“Today’s publication reinforces why a clear framework for employer-led interactions is needed and we must refocus our efforts on getting careers and work experience right in the UK with responsibility shared across educators, business and Government.”

This report follows previous research published earlier this year which showed that employer engagement boosts young people’s employment prospects but those who have most to benefit, get it least. The same research found that young people with higher volumes of encounters with the world of work benefit from wage premiums of up to £3,500 and were 86% less likely to be NEET.

Read: Making the Grade