‘ASPIRES 2 Project Spotlight: Year 11 Students’ Views of Careers Education and Work Experience’

By Louise Archer and Julie Moote

Department of Education and Professional Studies, King’s College London. Download the report here.

The ASPIRES 2 project draws on data collected from 13,421 Year 11 students (aged 15-16) collected from 296 state secondary schools and 44 independent secondary schools. The survey explored the young people’s opinions and experiences of careers education and work experience. The research was conducted in 2014/15. The survey was supplemented with interview data from 70 Year 11 students and 62 parents.

The study found that less than two-thirds (63%) of students reported receiving any form of careers education. Only 57% of students who reported to have careers education then stated to be satisfied with the careers education they received. It was found that the students who were more likely to report high levels of satisfaction were the students who had the most access to careers advice.

The authors make use of the term ‘patterned’ to describe current trends in careers provision in terms of social inequality. The young people who would arguably benefit most from careers advice are those who are least likely to report that they experienced it, specifically: girls, minority ethnic, working-class, lower-attaining young people and students who are unsure of their aspirations or who plan to leave education post-16. Interestingly, students who plan to pursue apprenticeships courses are the most likely to have received both careers advice and work experience and report high levels of satisfaction with both. Boys were 1.27 times more likely to receive careers education and those with higher levels of cultural capital, defined as…, were 1.49 times more likely. The authors argue that it is likely that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds attend schools in receipt of fewer resources with reduced ability to reach all pupils with career advice.

Interview data revealed that many young people had hoped to receive careers education earlier than Year 11, as this year was often deemed ‘too late’ in changing choices and subject selection. Furthermore, students reported that they were unlikely to attend careers sessions which were not compulsory. Students believed they would benefit most from impartial advice and guidance and recognised that careers advice within schools can often be biased in favour of staying on to follow A-level study.

Fewer than half of the young people, 45%, surveyed had not experienced a work experience placement. The chances of participating in work experience varied by region and career aspiration. For example, students wanting to study science and law at a later time are the least likely to have taken part in a work experience placement. Students in the north-east, north-west and Yorkshire were significantly less likely to have participated in work experience than peers elsewhere in the country.

The authors suggest that policy interventions should ensure that all different groups of young people are engaging with careers provision, specifically so that the ‘underserved’ groups are reached. It is recognised that support and resources may be needed to monitor and address the inequalities which currently exist in preventing certain students from participating in careers education and work experience.

Watch Louise discuss the findings below: