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Understanding the link between employers and schools and the role of the National Careers Service

This report prepared for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills by the Institute for Employment Research at the University of Warwick focuses on employer-engagement with schools and colleges and the role of the National Careers Service in facilitating such links. It was completed in October but only published after the announcement that the Government intends to set up a Career and Inspiration Company in the New Year. It examines what works well in current practice and identifies areas for improvement. The report includes a literature review, the results of a survey of employers and educational establishments, case studies of good practice and interviews with careers practitioners, providers and stakeholders.

Employer findings

The report found that approximately half of all employers surveyed had previously engaged with schools and half of those had undertaken some type of activity in the last year. Approximately half of all engaged employers indicated that these activities had not had any benefit to their business.

Just under half of the employers surveyed were aware of the National Careers Service but most of those had not actively engaged with it. However, it needs to be borne in mind that this research took place before the new NCS contracts started in October 2014..

School and college findings

Nearly all schools/colleges reported some type of links with employers, or participation in employer-linked external events to support careers advice activities. Only three schools and one FE college were not interested in linking with employers. Different types of interaction were evident but only one third of schools provided activities for all students besides Y10 & Y11.

All but one of the schools/ colleges surveyed knew of the existence of the National Careers Service.

National Careers Service Prime Contractors and Stakeholders

National Careers Service Prime Contractors favoured a brokering model for the future, where a bank of employer contacts for talks, visits, work experience, mock interviews, etc. could be provided to schools and colleges and where they could work with others to support services under the National Careers Service brand further. Stakeholders supported this view. Instead, the Government announced the setting up of a Careers and Inspiration Company and the creation of a network of Enterprise Advisers six days before the publication of the report.

Conclusions and implications

The report recommends:

  • there’s a lot of employer engagement activity with schools/ colleges but it needs to be coordinated better
  • larger employers are more likely to be involved so the NCS and others need to find ways of incentivising SMEs to work with educational institutions
  • the NCS and others need to incentivise, stimulate and support employer interest in engaging more fully with schools and colleges (e.g. through local hubs)
  • the majority of activities with employers are organised for learners in the 14- 19 age range and, therefore, more needs to be done for the 11-14 age range
  • strong school leadership is needed to promote employer engagement activities alongside careers education and access to impartial careers guidance, not as an alternative to impartial guidance
  • schools and colleges would welcome support with developing links with employers and this could be facilitated through the NCS
  • schools and colleges want high quality, reliable labour market information (LMI) which the NCS could provide by making use of the ‘LMI for All’ web portal (
  • less than half of all the employers surveyed were aware of the National Careers Service which could be addressed through a strong and sustained marketing campaign
  • the visibility of the National Careers Service is not apparent to employers and an ‘Employer-Led Advisory Body’ within the Skills Funding Agency could help facilitate the strengthening of strategic partnerships and more flexible utilisation of resources between the National Careers Service, employers and schools
  • the National Careers Service’s links with employers need to be developed by working in partnership with Local Enterprise Partnerships and Local Authority Economic Development Units and other agencies while avoiding duplication of the work of the local education business partnerships (EBPs) that still operate in some regions.

Download the report here

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