Contemporary transitions: Young Britons reflect on life after secondary school and college

By Dr Anthony MannDr Elnaz T. Kashefpakdel, Jordan Rehill and Professor Prue Huddleston

Read the full report here.


This 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 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 the recollections of these young adults on actions taken by educational institutions to prepare them for the working world; their perceptions of the quality of their experiences; where they feel greater preparation would have been valued; and, using statistical regression analysis, what it was that schools and colleges did which actually helped with those transitions.

Young adults’ recollection of school and college action to prepare them for the working world

The study finds that:

  • Young adults attending selective and/or fee-paying institutions routinely recall greater levels of school-mediated employer engagement in terms of specific activities
  • Young adults in 2016 recall 1.6 school-mediated engagements with employers: 22% greater employer engagement than in 2011
  • Former students of independent and grammar schools recall greater levels of engagement than former pupils of comprehensive schools, but the gap is closing
  • Disadvantage is associated with lower levels of engagement: former recipients of Free School Meals and children of parents without experience of higher education recall lower levels of engagement
  • Young adults from ethnic minorities recall higher levels of engagement than White British peers, but no variation in participation by gender was found
  • Variation in experience of employer engagement is heavily related to attainment levels and geographic region


Young adults’ perceptions of how well their schools and colleges prepared them for working life

The study finds that:

  • Most young people educated in the state sector think that their schools prepared them poorly for adult working life
  • Young adults who experienced greater volume of school-mediated employer engagement feel better prepared for the adult working world
  • Most employer engagement was not helpful in making decisions at age 16, unless teenagers recalled 4+ activities
  • Most employer engagement was not helpful in applying for university, unless teenagers recalled 4+ activities
  • Most employer engagement was not helpful in applying for a full-time job, but participation in 3+ activities made a big difference


Young adults’ perceptions on how schools and colleges could have better prepared them for the working world

The study finds:

  • Young adults would have welcomed greater preparation for the working world 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


What schools and colleges did to help young adults succeed in the adult working world

The study finds:

  • Higher volumes of school-mediated employer engagement are associated with reduced incidence of NEET by up to 86%
  • Undertaking individual employer engagement activities is associated with reduced incidence of being NEET by up to 81%
  • Pre-16 participation in Job shadowing is associated with an adult wage premium of 11%
  • 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
  • Young adults experienced wage premiums linked to individual activities when undertaken within school(s) which they felt had prepared them well for adult life
  • Wage premiums of up to £3,500 can be identified linked to teenage participation in school-mediated employer engagement activities

Insights for policy and practice 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 the full report here.

The technical annex is available here Contemporary transitions Technical Annex