Towards an employer engagement toolkit: British teachers’ perspectives on the comparative efficacy of work-related learning activities

By Dr Anthony MannJames Dawkins and Rachael McKeown 

Read the full report here. towards-an-employer-engagement-toolkit

This study explores the perceptions of 390 UK secondary school staff about the value of 16 different work-related and employer engagement activities which are commonly undertaken by pupils between the ages 12 to 16 and explicitly investigates what schools staff think about the impact of those activities in terms of pupil employability skills, attainment and progression. The methodology used to explore these questions is unusual. It effectively crowd sources the informed perspectives of hundreds of secondary school staff. The study presented respondents with a list of sixteen common activities, identified those which they are familiar and secured their views about the comparative value of such activities in achieving ten different objectives and with five different types of young people. Respondents were asked, therefore, for their perspectives only on activities which took place in their schools.

The study uncovers a widespread belief that many of the activities are effective in achieving different outcomes and supporting different types of pupil. All 16 activities were on at least one occasion listed among the five most effective activities selected by respondents in considering the different outcome areas and pupil types; 12 of the activities were endorsed, on one or more occasion, by 70% or more of respondents with experience of the intervention. In reviewing the findings, a number of insights emerge:

  • Effective provision involves use of a range of different activities – with an emphasis on real-world experience (direct engagement with workplaces and employee volunteers)
  • Different types of young people respond in different ways to different types of activity
  • Different outcomes are better achieved by use of different activities

Looking specifically at the activities most valued by informed practitioners in securing different outcomes, responses can be clustered around three key themes: Sustained engagement with working the world; Career exploration and recruitment skills; Enterprise competitions.  Turning to different pupil types, the study finds that different types of young people respond in different ways to different types of activity, with again responses clustering on this occasion around two themes:  Sustained engagement with working world; Career exploration and recruitment skills.

For practitioners, the implications of this study can be summarised as follows.  It is the informed view of surveyed teaching staff that:

  • Pupils should take part in a variety of different work-related activities
  • Priority should be given to activities involving real-world workplace experience
  • As a minimum, pupils should take part in one or more activity over key stages 3 and 4 each related to:
    •  Sustained engagement with the working world. Activities include: Work experience, Community volunteering and Mentoring.
    • The development of career exploration and recruitment skills. Activities include: Career talks, Career fairs, Workplace visits, Mock Interviews and Job shadowing.
    • Skill development through Enterprise activities such as: One-day and Long form enterprise competitions.
  • The needs of higher and lower achievers should be considered separately. Pupils should not be treated as a homogeneous group. They are different – notably by achievement level – and can be expected respond to different activities in different ways.

A research summary is available here. towards-an-employer-engagement-toolkit-research-summary

Read the full report here. towards-an-employer-engagement-toolkit

Read the SSAT Summer Journal here: SSAT Summer Journal