Tooled Up Education

Researcher of the Month

“More is more”: the impact of careers education on later outcomes

Does school-based careers education, advice, information and guidance (CEAIG) have any influence on later life outcomes? A body of research has shown that careers education and activities can play an important role in helping young people to prepare for and navigate transitions into the world of work. It has also shown that the quality and quantity of provision can vary considerably, with those who are most socially disadvantaged experiencing the least and lowest quality provision. However, until now, the impact of careers education on later life outcomes has remained unclear.

A new paper written by Dr Julie Moote and colleagues seeks to find out what relationship there is between young people’s perceptions of the quality and quantity of school-based careers activities and education experienced at the age of 14–16 and their outcomes several years later, when they are 21–22. Findings are discussed in the light of recent legislation relating to careers support in England, which highlights how important it is to ensure that the needs of all young people transitioning into the workforce and adulthood are met.

Summary

Dr Moote and her colleagues conducted a large-scale postal survey of young people in England by obtaining a sample of young people born 1 September 1998 and 31 August 1999 who were registered on the Open Electoral Roll. The responses of 7,635 young people were included in the study. The questionnaire explored young people’s experiences, aspirations, expectations and influences, their general views on science and careers, extra-curricular activities, qualifications, attainment and socio-demographic factors. It also reported on measures of job satisfaction, income, and perspectives and confidence relating to future careers and work. The paper focuses on data that specifically relates to careers provision, which sought to establish young people’s perspectives on the careers education that they received at school and how helpful they found it.

The analysis showed that experiencing a greater number of careers advice and guidance activities at school significantly predicted more positive future prospects. The more activities that an individual reported taking part in, and the more activities they reported as being helpful, the more likely they were to report feeling confident and experiencing low levels of concern when thinking about their future employment or training. Young adults who recalled having a greater amount of careers guidance at school felt more confident about their future work prospects, felt better prepared for life and experienced greater life satisfaction, and those who were in employment felt happier and more satisfied with their jobs.

To contextualise this, Dr Moote found that the odds of young people reporting more positive future prospects were 85% higher if they recalled eight careers activities at age 14–16, compared to someone who reported zero. Good careers provision at school also predicted significantly increased odds of young people reporting being in education, training or work at the age of 21/22. School type also emerged as a significant predictor in feeling prepared for life, with independent school pupils having twice the odds of reporting preparedness compared to state comprehensive pupils, and 1.47 times higher odds than grammar school pupils. 

Implications

“We are careful here not to overstate the implications of the findings. However, while we cannot claim causality of the results… this work documents the long-term value and potential positive influence of these CEAIG activities on outcomes reported later in life… These results show that the more we do for young people (i.e. the more supportive development activities we support/encourage them to participant in) and the higher the quality of the activities we provide for them is (i.e. the more helpful they report finding the activities), the stronger the relationships might be to the adult outcomes.”

Implications for schools

Dr Moote advises all schools to consider the Gatsby Benchmarks when developing an authentic, contextualised and personalised careers programme. Defined in a detailed report, these eight benchmarks outline best practice in careers education and scaffold the structure of provision within schools. They have really helped in the move towards standardisation of careers provision and in keeping individual settings more accountable.

Start early. The younger we begin to talk to children about the different kinds of jobs available to them, the better. Primary teachers might consider using The LOUD! Network’s free resources. They contain videos and follow up activities which relate curriculum based content to specific careers.

Monitor and measure. The majority of careers education is offered on a self-referral system. This could potentially disadvantage those that might benefit from it the most, as it relies on students to understand the kind of support that they need, actively seek it and opt-in to do it. Schools should monitor and measure uptake, notice patterns and evaluate the strategies that are being used in order to check that careers programmes and activities are reaching the widest possible number of students. Reflect on the structure used within your setting and, if you use a self-referral system, evaluate whether it is working and what implications it has.

Implications for parents

Have dinnertime discussions. Make time to talk about different careers and potential future prospects, and make conversations about science part of your everyday life. Dinnertime chats are known to have a significant positive impact on how children feel about themselves and their academic capabilities.

Make the most of your contacts. Work experience is often organised by parents. This is brilliant in families with strong professional relationships and contacts, but far more challenging for those with less access. Make the most of your strengths and tap into your support network for help if you need it.

Be open to your children’s opinions and interests, and be curious about the things that fascinate them. It’s important to put our own views and feelings aside when talking about careers with our children. To help them have a fulfilling career, we need to understand what they want and what would be the best option for them, rather than projecting our own motivations onto them. 

In relation to STEM, help children understand that science is transferable and is for everyone. A STEM qualification can open many doors and provide many opportunities. People with STEM qualifications are less likely to be employed below their skill level and there is a real need for skilled people in the STEM sphere.

Check out Talking FuturesThis online resource is designed to help parents have informed and constructive conversations with children about the different training and education pathways available to them.

Resources Created from and Related to this Research

Dr Julie Moote, freelance research and evaluation consultant.

Dr Julie Moote started out as a science teacher, but has been an academic researcher for a decade and is now a freelance research and evaluation consultant.  Her most significant project has been the ASPIRES investigation. ASPIRES was a huge longitudinal study which followed a cohort of students over a 13 year period – from primary school leavers, through to university graduates and young people transitioning into the world of work – investigating how their aspirations for education, and then work, in STEM-related disciplines formed and developed over time. The findings of this project have been reported to Parliament and are informing government policies on how to encourage more young people to get into STEM careers.  Broadening the pursuit of STEM is one of Julie’s main passions – particularly making STEM a safer and more inclusive space for people of all backgrounds and characteristics. And she is also very interested in how inquiry-based learning programmes can help to inspire budding scientists.

Find Dr Moote’s research here