2020 Spring Term 1


  • A future from the heart
    Here's the latest information from our colleagues across the nation. ASCL is proud to represent school and college leaders from all over the UK. More
  • Paws for thought
    ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton on how the Association will take the lead, working with and holding the new government to account to shape the education system we all want and need. More
  • Winning team
    Rugby star turned star broadcaster Maggie Alphonsi talks to Julie Nightingale about being the disruptive kid who became a World Cup medal-winning sports star and what it has taught her about leadership, self-confidence and mental strength. More
  • Moral compass
    Everyone in the exam and assessment world must take an ethical approach if malpractice is to be prevented, says former ASCL general secretary John Dunford. Here he highlights the findings of an independent commission. More
  • An inspector calls
    The thought of a 90-minute pre-inspection phone call with a lead inspector may not seem like something to celebrate but it needn't be too daunting. Here, ASCL Inspection Specialist Stephen Rollett shares his insights. More
  • Wishful thinking
    After four years of Area Reviews, what does the further education sector now look like? Here ASCL's Senior Adviser on College Leadership, Dr Anne Murdoch, OBE, shares her insights. More
  • Close encounters
    How do we ensure that students get the most out of their encounters with the world of work? CEO of the Education and Employers Charity Nick Chambers shares the latest evidence. More
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How do we ensure that students get the most out of their encounters with the world of work? CEO of the Education and Employers Charity Nick Chambers shares the latest evidence.

Close encounters

The importance of providing young people with encounters with the world of work is highlighted in the School Inspection Handbook (https://tinyurl.com/y3lsw9db) and the Gatsby benchmarks (https://tinyurl.com/tvs7kpa). But such encounters don’t automatically have a positive impact on students. So, what does make the difference? How can schools and colleges ensure students gain as much as possible from such encounters?

What’s so special about an encounter with the world of work?

What makes employer engagement special is that it draws upon resources and experiences linked to the world of work that cannot be easily replicated in the classroom. It offers young people something new and different to what they can normally expect. When young people interact with the workplace, they gain access to two primary things: 1 :information about the working world and how it relates to their own decisions about education 2 :the opportunity to apply knowledge and skills developed in classrooms in real-world settings


Authentic encounters ring true for a young person, providing insights that are hard to dismiss. More than that, the more authentic the insight into the working world, the more reliable that insight can be expected to be. Consequently, the chance for young people to interact with people from the world of work and ask them questions about the reality of the workplace is vitally important. Young people listen to such people in a way they would never listen to a teacher – even if they are telling them the same thing, for example, “You need to get these grades if you are to get a career in…”

More is more

Young people need to hear from a wide range of people from different social, economic and ethnic backgrounds: people working in different sectors, from app designers to zoologists; people working at different levels, from apprentices to CEOs; and people who have taken a variety of career routes, including starting their own business, following an apprenticeship or going to university. Our research has shown that young adults who recall interacting with employers on four or more occasions can expect much better outcomes than classmates who never remembered engaging with people in work or who did so just occasionally.

New and useful

The more a young person engages with the working world, the more likely it is that they will learn something new and useful about the labour market, and the more likely it will be that this new information will challenge the assumptions and expectations that have driven their prior career thinking. It gives them a believable insight into the working world and how it relates to their own decisions about education: How hard should they study? What and where should they study in the future? It challenges stereotypical thinking and gives them confidence by helping them to think critically about work and how they will ultimately enter it.

Start early

Employer encounters should begin in primary school with the focus being on broadening horizons, raising aspirations, exciting children about learning and challenging the ingrained stereotypes they might have about people and the jobs they do. It is about showing them the vast range of possibilities open to them and helping to keep their options open for as long as possible.

Targeting and personalisation

In order to optimise impact, a targeted and personalised approach is needed. For example, young people from less advantaged backgrounds are likely to need greater interventions than their more privileged classmates. Many schools undertake one-to-one career sessions with students in order to understand their interests and experiences and plan provision based on this.

Variety in employer encounters

Research undertaken by our charity highlights that different employer engagement activities are likely to be useful in achieving different outcomes for young people (see https://tinyurl.com/shfaqd9). Employer encounters are not just about developing careers thinking; they can also help young people gain knowledge and skills demanded by employers, prepare for their transitions into work and enhance their academic attainment.

In preparing young people for effective transitions into work, for example, mock interviews and CV workshops as well as activities that demand young people be personally effective in unfamiliar environments, like work experience placements, are likely to be of greatest value. Similarly, the softer skills so valued by employers in recruitment can be expected to be developed through experiences, like work experience placements and enterprise competitions that give young people the chance to apply their knowledge and skills in environments that feel authentic. In both areas, impact is linked to the authenticity of the experience. In terms of academic attainment, activities like career talks, mock interviews and work experience placements that give young people an unambiguous reminder of the value of education and qualifications in the labour market can be expected to have the greatest benefit.

Schools and colleges can help young people get the most out of interactions by helping them put their experiences into context. Effective establishments will help young people to think critically about their encounters with the working world, preparing well and reflecting afterwards.

How to tell if young people need more support

Based on our research and feedback from schools, we have developed a toolkit (https://tinyurl.com/wknfueg) specially to help state schools and colleges plan their career provision and identify and help young people who need more support: those who are disengaged from learning or have misaligned aspirations and/or are uncertain about their future.

It can be used as a means to evaluate young people’s attitudes and experiences related to the world of work. It provides insight as to whether career events have helped young people to think critically about the future, to talk about it with others and to reflect on their learning and its connection to their future. It is designed to allow schools themselves to assess what they are doing and target effort accordingly.

Find out more

Education and Employers is a charity which runs the free Inspiring the Future service, connecting schools with volunteers, and undertakes research on employer engagement in education. Visit www.educationandemployers.org/meaningful-encounters to find out more.

Nick Chambers
CEO Education and Employers charity