By Christian Percy and Anthony Mann
In Employer Engagement in Education: Theories and Evidence (Routledge, 2014) eds. Anthony Mann, Julian Stanley and Louise Archer.
This paper investigates the claim that greater experience of the world of work while studying at school, should also confer benefits in accessing and successfully participating in employment later. This logic underpins UK government policies, introduced in 2004, which urged schools to “better prepare young people for working lives through work related learning and employer engagement.” These policies were generally “co-curricular” meaning they were not integrated into defined programmes of study with discrete learning outcomes which form the school curriculum.
While most related studies in the UK investigate labour market outcomes in terms of increased attainment and/or perceived improved preparation for the workplace, the current study assesses actual progression in the labour market. It does this by analysing the results of a 2011 YouGov survey to determine the relationship between young people’s contact with employers during school and their Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) status, earnings and confidence in personal career progression.
Respondents to the YouGov survey, aged between 19 and 24, were asked to state the number of employee engagement activities they had undertaken while at school or college between the ages of 14 and 19. All participants described their current status with regard to whether they were NEET or non-NEET individuals at the time of the survey. Those who were in full time paid employment were asked to record their current annual salaries. In order to gain a personal perspective, the survey also examined participants’ confidence that their current activities would help them to achieve their long-term career goals. To allow the research to control for background characteristics respondents also provided demographic information including highest qualification and school type.
With regard to young people’s NEET status, this analysis reveals a “strong advantage associated with employer engagement” during school or college, even after controlling for factors such as level of education and social background. Logistic regression models generally indicate that two or more employer contacts has a broadly robust association with a reduced probability of NEET status. The analysis of the annual salaries of participants suggests that increased employer contacts may produce an increase in wages as each additional employer contact is associated with an extra £900 in annual salary on average.
Data analysis further shows a consistent view of school-mediated employer engagement as being beneficial for young people. In general, participants who experienced greater levels of contact with employers were “significantly less likely to be NEET… and more likely to be earning at a higher level” as well as more likely to be confident in the value of their current activities. Despite inevitable variation across individual experiences, this paper finds that “it is clear that school-age employer engagement is closely linked to getting a good start in the labour market.” This study supports extant research from the U.S and UK which has looked for evidence of labour market benefits associated with employer engagement at school. In relation to UK government policy, the findings of this study offer a “validation of decisions to enhance the prospects of young people by extending their access to workplace contacts whilst still in education.”