Poorer young people more likely to have career aspirations that don’t match their educational goals

Teenagers who underestimate the education needed to get their chosen job are more likely to end up not in education, employment or training and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are disproportionately more likely to have career aspirations that don’t match their educational goals, according to a new review of international evidence published today by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. However, good-quality careers education can make a real difference to academic, social and economic outcomes.

The report, by Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, Principal Research Fellow at the University of Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research, and Dr Anthony Mann, Director of Policy and Research at the Education and Employers Charity, provides an overview of the impact of careers education and how it shapes young people’s academic achievement and employment outcomes.

Drawing on nearly 100 different studies, the researchers found that teenagers who have a good understanding of what they need to do to achieve their career ambitions and who combined part-time work with full-time study do a lot better economically later in life than their peers. However, they found that teenagers from poorer homes are more likely to be uncertain about the qualifications they need to access their chosen career and get the skills they need.

The review highlights that part-time employment as a teenager is associated with improved economic outcomes for young adults, but teenagers today are much less likely to benefit from part-time work than they were 20 years ago: the proportion of British 16 -17 year olds who have a part-time job while they’re still in education has more than halved, from 42% in 1997 to 18% in 2014. The authors argue that careers education, including first-hand experiences of the world of work alongside independent and impartial career guidance, is even more important to give young people the type of insights, exposure and experiences that will help them succeed in the world of work.

Previous research by the Sutton Trust found careers provision in English schools to be a ‘postcode lottery’ where some young people ‘have access to much better career guidance than others’. There is a risk that a lack of good quality careers education will disproportionately impact on students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are perhaps less likely to have family or friends with the breadth of insight and expertise to offer informed advice, and who could be left poorly equipped in making decisions about their futures.

To help schools and colleges provide high-quality careers education for all their pupils, the authors analysed existing international and national research to identify whether there was strong evidence on the effectiveness of different types of careers education. They identified careers provision, job shadowing and work experience to be associated with positive economic outcomes in later life.

Recognising that the research literature in the field of career education is far from complete, the authors looked at the results of high quality studies offering reliable insights into the impact of careers education activities. Considering studies from across the OECD countries, they found that 60% of studies of careers education interventions aimed at improving the educational outcomes of pupils (e.g. exam success) had largely positive impacts. Two-thirds (67%) of studies looking for evidence of economic outcomes (e.g. higher adult earnings) and 62% of studies looking for evidence of social outcome (e.g. confidence and resilience) were also found to be broadly positive. Of the other studies considered, many were found to have mixed results with some young people gaining benefits while others did not.

They also identified a number of characteristics of good careers education, including giving students the chance to network with professionals in different jobs and allowing them to explore the different careers paths and options open to them.

To fill the gaps in the evidence identified by today’s report, the EEF aims to work with key partners, including the Careers & Enterprise Company, to fund a number of trials of evidence-based careers education programmes later this year.

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

“High-quality careers advice can make a real difference to young people’s outcomes after school, particularly those from disadvantaged homes. It is more important today as fewer young people now work at weekends or part-time, missing out on essential life skills gained in the workplace. “By summarising international research evidence on careers education, today’s report will help teachers and school leaders to make informed decisions about the advice and support they offer. The EEF hopes to add to the evidence-base of what makes effective careers provision by funding more randomised controlled trials of evidence-based careers programmes.”

Dr. Deirdre Hughes OBE, Principal Research Fellow at the University of Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research and one of the authors of the report, said:

“Clearly young people from poorer backgrounds are at a distinct disadvantage compared to those who attend independent schools where investment in careers education is a priority. More needs to be done to urgently rectify this situation in England’s schooling system.”

Dr Anthony Mann, Director of Policy and Research at the Education and Employers Charity and one of the authors of the report, said:

“The evidence we have considered is consistent and compelling in demonstrating that young people very often have a great deal to gain from activities organised by schools and colleges to demonstrate the links between the classroom and workplace. The earlier schools can begin drawing this connection, the better.”

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

“We recognise the importance of research in developing evidence-based responses to solving social and economic challenges. This is why, Bank of America Merrill Lynch is proud to have commissioned this extensive piece of research to strengthen our understanding of the effectiveness of careers education. We hope the results will be used by others to inform further research and will help increase support to those initiatives which are improving careers education.”

Claudia Harris, CEO of the Careers & Enterprise Company, said:

“Our key principles at the Careers & Enterprise Company are to test, learn and adapt and to build on what works. We believe that this evidence-based approach improves outcomes for young people and increases system effectiveness and efficiency. We welcome this excellent research by the University of Warwick, Institute for Employment Research (IER) and Education and Employers charity, on behalf of the Education Endowment Foundation and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. We will ourselves reflect it in our work and hope that it supports schools and colleges across England make more evidence based decisions.”

1.The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is a grant-making charity set up in 2011 by the Sutton Trust as lead foundation in partnership with Impetus Trust (now part of Impetus–The Private Equity Foundation), with a £125m founding grant from the Department for Education. The EEF is dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement. Since its launch the EEF has awarded £75.4 million to 127 projects working with over 750,000 pupils in over 7,500 schools across England. The EEF and Sutton Trust are, together, the government-designated What Works Centre for Education.

2.Developing solutions for social and economic challenges is at the core of Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Environment, Social and Governance platform. In more than 90 countries around the world, they partner with employees, clients and stakeholders to help make financial lives better. The company focuses on responsible business practices, environmental sustainability, advancing opportunity in local communities through education and employability programmes, and investing in global leadership development. They realise the power of their people and value their differences, recognising that their diversity makes them a stronger firm and allows the company to better service its stakeholders. By harnessing intellectual resources, sharing knowledge and connecting capital with need, the company provides opportunities that effect positive change. Learn more at www.bankofamerica.com/aboutor follow them on Twitter @BofAML.

3.Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE is Principal Research Fellow at the University of Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research (IER).She is Co-Editor of the British Journal for Guidance and Counselling – International Symposium series. She has published academic works extensively on careers provision for young people and adults. In 2015, she led a UK team to examine international career development policies and practices.

4.Dr Anthony Mann is Director of Policy and Research at the Education and Employers Charity. He was the lead editor of Understanding Employer Engagement in Education eds. Anthony Mann, Julian Stanley and Louise Archer (Routledge, 2014) and is the author of more than 30 works on the subject of employer engagement in education: http://www.educationandemployers.org/research-main.

5.The study An International Literature Review: Careers Education by Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, Dr Anthony Mann, Dr Sally-Annr Barnes, Beate Baldauf and Rachael MacKeown is now available to download at: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/ier/people/dhughes/

6.The study defines Careers Education as ‘Careers-focused school and/or college mediated provision, including career guidance and work-related learning, designed to improve students’ education, employment and/or social outcomes.’