Four or more pupil-employer contacts key in NEET battle

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

The evidence is clear: students are significantly less likely to become NEET (not in education, employment or training) if they experience four or more contacts with employers before they leave school.

However, the research has also revealed that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds have the least contact with employers while at school.

The findings come from a survey of more than 1,700 19 to 24-year-olds, which reveals that contact with employers between the ages of 14 and 18 does result in a career boost in later life.

The study has been carried out by the charity Education and Employers and the Barclays LifeSkills programme.

Its headline finding was that if a student reported having four or more contacts with employers while at school, they were 86 per cent less likely to be NEET.

Contacts included things such as careers advice from employers, competing in enterprise competitions, being mentored and job-shadowing.

However, those reporting the lowest levels of employer engagement while at school came, on average, from disadvantaged backgrounds, including those on free school meals, whose parents had not attended university, and whose highest qualifications were GCSEs (or equivalent) or lower.

In the survey, young adults who had attended a non-selective state school recalled engaging with employers on 1.54 occasions through their school or college. Former students of grammar schools recalled 1.92 engagements and of independent schools 1.74 engagements.

Furthermore, the young adults who viewed their employer engagement while at school as “helpful” went on to enjoy significantly higher average earnings.

When asked what it was about the employer engagement that was helpful, respondents focused on practical issues – gaining something useful to include in a job application or in a UCAS application and demonstrating improvements to their soft skills and understanding of the recruitment process.

This finding echoes previous research from Education and Employers which found that the more employer contacts students have during school, the more they are likely to earn later in life. That analysis showed that young people who took part in four or more activities with employers while at school earn an average of £23,100 a year between the ages of 19 and 24. Those who report having had no employer contact at school earn an average of £19,500 – £3,600 less.

Each employer contact was found to be worth on average an extra £900 a year.

Dr Anthony Mann, director of policy and research at Education and Employers and a co-author of the new research, said: “The evidence shows that students need at least four, and arguably more interactions with employers, in a variety of activities, to make the greatest difference. The typical young British adult recalls only 1.6 activities. That is not enough.”

Kirstie Mackey, director of LifeSkills, said: “This research highlights that government, businesses, educators and parents still need to do more together to improve careers advice and invest in the next generation, raising their confidence and aspirations and building the UK’s talent pipeline.”


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