Student demand for employer engagement not being met in some schools – research

Posted on 20 Feb 2024 by The Manufacturer

New independent research has revealed an overwhelming majority of students want employer experiences in their education, but some schools have “nobody coming in”.

Education think tank ImpactEd has completed an evaluation of the 44-strong University Technical College (UTC) programme on its curriculum, student destinations, employer engagement, and employability skills.

One student told researchers that at their UTC, “employers support us throughout the whole journey,” but at their previous school: “Nobody came in, nobody helped us with any idea of what we wanted to be in the future.”

Students’ demand for employer engagement being met by UTCs

ImpactEd’s evaluation was based on attendance and destinations data, as well as student surveys collected by the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, the national representative body for UTCs, which commissioned the research. ImpactEd also conducted focus groups with Year 11 and 13 students at four UTCs.

Around 90 per cent of Year 9, 10, and 12 students agreed they “really want employer experiences such as projects, talks, and work experience” as part of their education.

UTCs deliver a technical education curriculum built in concert with employers, who further support the secondary schools with work experience, mock interviews, student presentations, and ‘workday Wednesdays’ where different employers visit to discuss their experiences and what is required for a career in their field.

One UTC student told researchers: “I didn’t know what career path I wanted to choose, but once I came to the UTC and experienced what engineering is like and what employee engagement we can get, it helped me want to become an engineer and show everyone that girls can also do it.”

Specialist subjects and trust in teachers encourage attendance

UTCs, which deliver a technical education curriculum in concert with employers, traditionally accept students at 14. ImpactEd found that the average attendance by Year 10 students at one UTC was 97 per cent, compared to 90 per cent for Year 9 at their previous schools.

At five UTCs which accept younger students, average attendance for Year 9 increased by as much as five per cent on the Year 8 scores from the students’ previous schools.

This, the report reads, reflected students’ positive reception to the specialised subjects and opportunities provided at the UTCs.

In one focus group, a student said their attendance “has changed for the better” since starting at a UTC.

“It makes me want to come to school because it’s something new every day it’s very interesting. You don’t want to miss much.”

Disadvantaged UTC students more likely to reach HE or apprenticeships

Around a quarter of UTC Year 13 leavers progressed onto apprenticeships in Autumn 2023, ImpactEd reported.

Whereas just five per cent of school leavers nationally progressed onto apprenticeships in 2021 (the latest available national data).

UTC leavers from a disadvantaged background were also more likely to progress onto higher education (57% v 54%) or apprenticeships (3% v 13%) than the national average.

Baker Dearing Educational Trust chief executive Simon Connell commented: “This report proves how University Technical Colleges are meeting students’ demand for employer engagement and technical education while boosting attendance and inclusion.

“ImpactEd’s findings will help us build and improve the support that we provide, not just to UTCs, but to all of our partners as we seek to widen access to high-quality technical education.

“This includes our UTC Sleeve initiative, which replicates within a mainstream school the UTC education that ImpactEd found students value. We will be working with interested schools to expand the UTC Sleeve initiative over the coming months.”

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