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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Driving a generation: Improving the interaction between schools and businesses

Today's secondary school pupils are being let down by careers services that are not equal to the task of helping them navigate the increasingly difficult transition from school to work. In this report we demonstrate how closer collaboration between local schools and businesses offers mutual benefits, and can help guide young people towards rewarding careers.

Pupils as young as 12 are engaged in thinking seriously about their careers, but they want more help, more work experience, and more information about local job opportunities, including visits from employers and visits to their sites. Many pupils are not fully aware of what the educational prerequisites are for the careers they aspire to, or what demand there is in local industries for particular skills. Likewise, many employers are missing opportunities to invest in - and benefit from - a better trained and more experienced future workforce by proactively helping to shape the choices young people make about qualifications and work experience.

This report presents case studies, a newly-conducted survey, and an overview of research in this field, and focuses specifically on the example of how local schools and automotive manufacturers can mutually benefit from closer relationships, in order to demonstrate how important it is for pupils to be equipped with better knowledge about local employers and the opportunities they offer. Our findings show the importance of educating young people early on about both careers and the educational choices they need to make in order to realise their ambitions: it is an issue for pre-GCSE ages as well, not one that simply begins at the age of 16.

We offer three main recommendations for how school careers services can be improved:

  1. Careers service funding should be protected, and schools given more support to provide independent careers advice and guidance. To this end, the remit of the National Careers Service should be expanded to enable it to perform a capacity-building and brokerage role for schools.
  2. Careers advice should be more properly embedded in the curriculum for pupils in years 7-10: pupils should learn more about different careers and routes into them in each subject area, have more visits both to and from businesses, and - towards the end of their school careers - be offered more individualised careers support tailored to their specific needs.
  3. All secondary schools' careers services should take the lead in developing stronger relationships with major employers in their catchment areas, but businesses - especially those with skills-shortages - need to be proactive participants in this process. New and existing local 'skills hubs' should act as intermediaries to promote efficient relationship-building.

In essence, with a little more co-ordination, effort, and money invested in the right places, the links between schools and businesses can be improved substantially, opening young people's minds to a wider range of careers.