Education Committee hears evidence on the importance of partnerships between education providers and businesses
Posted by Lucy Kerrigan
13 Feb 2014
The most recent evidence session of the Education Committee’s ongoing enquiry into Underachievement in Education by White Working Class Children discussed new ways of approaching vocational education to raise its status. Vocational education still suffers from being under valued when compared with academic subjects. Education providers and businesses working together was highlighted as being vital to making this happen. This is in line with the recommendations from APPG on Literacy’s Youth Literacy and Employability Commission, published in December. The APPG on Literacy called on government to help schools and businesses to work together to increase literacy levels to meet employers expectations.
Evidence also highlighted the challenges for schools in providing high quality career’s guidance and the importance of “cultural capital” and how a lack of it was holding working class children back. In the context of this discussion cultural capital refers not just to having parents who understand that education is important, but also access to knowledge about where education might take you and how to navigate the many options available.
When asked about careers guidance Professor Alison Wolf made the point that it is “very difficult for a school to give really good careers advice…you are asking individual teachers to be experts on a huge range of things, which is something that is almost impossible” and suggested that we need to look at “non-traditional ways of doing careers guidance.”
Words for Work is a great example of a non traditional way of doing careers guidance. It takes business volunteers into schools and challenges them to show communication skills in action. They also use their experience of the work place to support students in forming their own ideas about what they might want to do when they leave school. For students it opens up new options and gives them an insight into careers they might not have considered.
A report released last year by the CIPD highlighted research by Anthony Mann and Christian Percy that demonstrated employer contact at school had an impact on the amount students went onto earn. A young adult with four or more experiences of engaging with employers whilst in education could be expected to earn £3,600 more than a student that hadn’t had these experiences. This underscores the importance of projects like Words for Work and demonstrates how far the impact of such an intervention can go. Anthony Mann, Research director at the Education Employers Taskforce explained the findings further –
“As well as potentially developing skills and networks of relevance to later employment, young people are gaining access to hugely useful insights, into the breadth of the labour market and entry routes into different professions.”
Business involvement is vital to Words for Work and at the centre of the new approach to vocational education discussed during the evidence sessions. It’s great to see growing recognition from both business and education that they need to work together to ensure all young people are given the skills to make the right choices after they leave education.
Find out more about Words for Work at www.literacytrust.org.uk/words_for_work
 ‘Employers are from Mars, Young People are from Venus: Addressing the young people/jobs mismatch’, Katerne Rüdiger for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development Learning to Work initiative, April 2013
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