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A large randomised controlled trial will find out if getting groups of teenagers to deliver a project that tackles a social issue relevant to their community and with the support of business mentors can help improve their motivation and engagement at school.

780 pupils at 30 English schools will take part in the trial of Community Apprentice, a programme developed and delivered by Envision. Through a mix of weekly coaching sessions, workshops and cross-city events, groups of around 10 teenagers will identify an issue they care passionately about, come up with a way to help and work with local businesses and charities to make it happen.

Making a difference

The teams will then participate in an inter-school competition, with the winning team being the one that has made the biggest difference to their community and can demonstrate most effectively how they have developed skills valued by employers, such as communication and problem solving.

A team of independent evaluators from the Behavioural Insight Team (BIT) will measure the impact that taking part in the programme has on character skills such as self-efficacy and persistence, as well as on maths and English GCSE results.

Funded in partnership

The trial is being funded by a million-pound partnership between the EEF, The Careers & Enterprise Company and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The three organisations have committed to test different approaches to careers education to find out which are the most likely to boost young people’s chances of securing a job after school.

The research follows an Ofsted report which found that most of England’s schools are failing to prepare their pupils for the world of work through effective careers education.

Second trial focussing on STEM

A second trial, funded by the same partnership and evaluated by a team from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), will test the impact of preparing for, applying for and participating in STEM-related work experience on GCSE results in science and maths. Examples of past placements include at organisations such as the Met Office and South West Water.

Pupils at 130 schools will take part in a trial of CSW Group’s STEM-related work experience programme. The programme will begin with a whole-year group work experience preparation day for Year 10 (14 and 15 year olds). Schools will help to identify a group of students who might otherwise struggle to find a work experience placement. They’ll be supported through the application process, interviewed for opportunities, and given feedback after the placement.

Participating and more information

Both trials are currently recruiting schools that are interested in participating.

EEF projects - Community Apprentice
EEF projects - Generation STEM Work Experience
The Career & Enterprise Fund


Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:

“Schools and colleges are under more pressure to provide their pupils with a strong careers offering. But there is little evidence available on how to do this well. We are keen to see if engaging young people in tackling issues that matter to them motivates them to do better in school and to develop the skills valued by employers.

“By funding rigorous and independent evaluations of these two different approaches, we will be in a much better position to say what effective careers education looks like and its knock-on benefits to other outcomes like attainment in school.”

Claudia Harris, Chief Executive of the Careers & Enterprise Company, said:

“The best research shows that young people who have 4 or more encounters with the world of work while at school are 86% less likely to be NEET - not in education, employment or training - and on average will go on to earn 18% more than their peers who did not have such opportunities.

“These trials will add to this evidence base and help us better understand exactly which type of encounters and support have the greatest impact on young people. The findings will further support our Investment Fund in rapidly scaling up careers and enterprise programmes that work across England.

“We are grateful to the Education Endowment Foundation and Bank of America Merrill Lynch for their support with this work.”

Anthony Harte, Head of Community Engagement, EMEA at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said:

“As a supporter of the Careers & Enterprise Fund, we are delighted to help understand what effective careers education looks like. While conditions in England have improved over recent years, many disadvantaged young people still face barriers to economic success.

“By focusing on these trails to test different approaches to careers education, we hope to build pathways which will help young people transition from education into sustained employment.”