Career talks at the age of 14 are the most effective, new data analysis suggests

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: iStock

Fourteen is the crucial age at which career talks delivered at school – even short, hour-long sessions – will have the biggest impact on a pupil’s future earnings, analysis has shown.

A study by the charity Education and Employers argues that young people could be earning an additional £2,000 by their mid-20s simply by being exposed to more careers talks.

It concludes that the earnings boost is greatest where pupils had talks at the age of 14 and found them “very helpful”. A pupil who experienced six such talks could expect to earn £2,000 more in today’s money by the age of 26.

In fact, overall earnings at age 26 were higher for every effective career talk experienced at ages 14 and 15.

The study takes into account other factors that influence earnings, such as economic status, academic ability and demographics.

The analysis is based on the British Cohort Study, which is tracking individuals born in 1970 through their lifetime.

Dr Anthony Mann, director of policy and research at Education and Employers, said: “Other well-known studies have highlighted the benefits of employer engagement, but never before have we had such a robust analysis drawing on such rich data.

“This demonstrates how much young people can benefit when employers and schools work together, and it doesn’t have to be onerous. Even an hour’s talk in a school can have an impact later in life. The more exposure young people have to professional careers provision, the better.

“The labour market is more complex today (than for the pupils in the British Cohort Study), and it’s even more of a challenge for young people to understand its breadth and what qualifications and skills will best prepare them for a successful career. Arguably, the value of career talks and employer insights will be even greater for pupils today.”

Nick Soar, headteacher of the Bishop Challoner Catholic Federation, routinely invites speakers from business and industry to give talks about career options.

He said: “Careers education has become the heart of what we do. We’ve brought in speakers from aerospace engineering, banking, medicine, drama and computing.

“The pupils love it. They ask endless questions and you can see it really brings home to them what they need to do to succeed in the workplace.”

Education and Employers runs the Inspiring the Future programme which links volunteers and schools. It also organises events to bring together students and employers outside of school.

The study findings – Career Education that Works – have been published in the Journal of Education and Work. Visit


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