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Nick Chambers is the Chief Executive of Education and Employers. He tells us more about their new report launched this week providing evidence that engagement with employers can have a significant impact on attainment for young people.

Research conducted by the UK based charity Education and Employers has for the first time in England demonstrated a link between young people’s engagement with the world of work through career talks and their GCSE attainment by using a Randomised Control Trial (RCT).

The research, Motivated to achieve published yesterday shows that participation in career talks with volunteers from the world of work can change the attitudes of Key Stage 4 (14-16 years old) pupils to their education. 

This can influence their future plans and subject choices, motivate them to study harder and supports an improvement in academic attainment - even when taking place only a few months before their exams start. And significantly the research shows that the low achievers and less engaged learners have the most to gain in improving their academic attainment.

It builds on previous research done by the charity over the last ten years including its frequently quoted report that four or more employer encounters reduces the likelihood of young people becoming NEET (20132017). The BBC and TES have covered the story - read the coverage and full report.

The charity has long believed that there is a relationship between young people’s encounters with the world of work and academic attainment. 

Various surveys of head teachers have shown that they strongly believe that something important happens to young people when they engage with people from the world of work. Anecdotal evidence from survey data of teachers shows that they believe meeting volunteers from the world of work helps young people to see the value of education, translating into motivation to study harder for their exams.  

Dr Elnaz Kashefphkdel, Head of Research at Education and Employers said: “This report shows that short interactions with volunteers from the world of work can have a powerful impact on attainment. And schools can access over 50,000 volunteers from all sectors - architects to zoologists and all levels -  apprentices to CEOs who are available to talk to young people about their job and career route via the free on-line match making service Inspiring the Future.”


Key findings

The research revealed that changes in young people’s attitude and motivation contributed towards improvements in attainment.

A)    Changes in Student attitudes 

  • Students who took part in the three extra careers talks showed improvements relative to the control group with respect to their:

-          Self-efficacy (confidence in their own abilities)

-          Attitudes about the usefulness of school

-          Confidence in fulfilling their career aspirations

-          As the result of the three encounters young people had, 7% of the students changed their future plans while around 20-28% of them questioned their career and education choices. 

B)    Changes in the number of weekly revision hours

  • Planned weekly revision hours in the lead up to exams is used as a proxy for how seriously students are taking the process and their “motivation to study harder”
  • The analysis shows that there is a positive and statistically significant relationship between taking part in three extra career talks and motivation to study harder. Students in the intervention group reported on average a 9% higher increase in their weekly revision hours than peers in the control group, linked indirectly to GCSE attainment via a separate analysis showing the importance of revision hours for GCSE attainment. 

C)      GCSE results

  • At the beginning of the study the GCSE predictions for all young people in the study were collected and compared with their actual grades, so that we could measure students’ outperformance.
  • The analysis reveals an indicative, direct link between the career talks and students’ outperforming their predicted grades, the equivalent of one student in a class of 25 beating their predictions by one grade as a result of the careers talks (controlling for gender and free school meals). 
  • There appears to be differences between the three subjects - the effect on English was more than double the average effect.
  • While the effects are modest and would need further exploration as part of a larger trial, this is an important finding, especially given the small costs involved in putting on three careers talk.

 D)      Who benefits the most?

  • The sub-sample analysis shows that lower achievers and less engaged learners responded best to the intervention.
  • Within the intervention group who received three extra career talks, those who were initially more sceptical of the value of the education reported a greater increase in motivation to study harder. For instance, students predicted a borderline pass in English GCSE reported a 32% increase in planned weekly revision hours after the test, whereas those predicted high grades from 6 to 9 only reported a 10% increase.
  • More is more! The impact of the extra career talks was larger for young people who had previously attended more short-duration career activities (such as career talks or career fairs). Such students were more likely to outperform their predicted grades and reported a higher level of motivation to study harder, the equivalent of an extra 20% in planned hours if they had done four such short-duration activities before the three organised for the study.