employer engagement

Live-streaming Employer Engagement activities

The rise of the student focused webinar

There are plenty of aspects of a comprehensive school/college CEIAG offer that can provide a challenge of budget, planning and delivery. Any Careers Leader will encounter difficulties to overcome to meet any of the Gatsby Benchmarks but the one that requires the greatest collaboration, outreach and organisation is perhaps Benchmark 5 “Encounters with Employers and Employees”. Finding willing volunteers from worlds of work that have some enticement for your learners and those who are able to interact positively with young people takes time, finding a suitable time slot around curriculum needs and their own commitments takes patience and negotiation and helping the learners place the information into context takes skill and follow-up. From the employer’s side there is also much to overcome, which of the multitude of organisations do they work with to co-ordinate their education outreach, how can they reach the gatekeeper in the school/college, how can they allocate precious staff time away from their roles for this sort of activity?

It seems that one of the growing solutions to help solve these complications is the use of live streaming employer engagement programmes. A kind of webinar for pupils, these offer lots of potential benefits for both employers and CEIAG practitioners and a more immediate and collective experience than CEIAG Vloggers.

For a number of years The Big Assembly has been a center point of National Apprenticeships Week and offers an interactive broadcast for schools to join. It’s main selling point is the communal aspect of the event, even though a teacher could be showing it on a whiteboard to a single tutor group, that group of students would be made to feel part of a much bigger event with pupils all over the country all joining in at that moment.

The Webinar itself is a series of short vox-pop type interviews of employees across different sectors recounting their apprenticeship journey interspersed with some awful voice over sections in which someone appears to be struggling with a bad quality phone line to announce various prize draw winners. At over 40 minutes, this would test the attention span of both of its target audience and the poor teacher supervising a group watching it. It is still available (last years version above) on the Workpays YouTube channel but as a historic resource it offers no real benefits for practitioners to go back to after the event to reuse.

Another offering is the WOW Show. This is a joint enterprise between the Edge Foundation, City & Guilds, the B&CE Charitable Trust and the RSA Academies Trust and offers a similar type of broadcast format with sharp insights into different areas of work with, this time, a studio based presenter tying things up. This seems a much more professionally produced effort even if the presenting style is (to my extremely middle-aged eyes) far too Blue Peter and not enough Alfie Deyes to really appeal to younger viewers. The “audience” asking question segments are also a good idea in practice but in reality turn into the children struggling to keep a straight face for long enough to actually get an audible question out and also show the limitations of generic advice in return.

The RSA Academies Trust have also provided a number of resources for teachers to use with their classes either in preparation before watching the programme or to link to their subject in the curriculum. A well prepared teacher (or, to put it another way, a teacher well prepared by their Careers Leader colleague) could use the WOW Show broadcast as they would any other video resource. This significantly reduces the communal aspect of the broadcast, turning it into just another resource to use as teachers see fit. This places the WOW Show offer as much closer to other video based CEIAG resources such as icould or Careersbox. This diminishes the value of the resource as the variety of careers and labour market information available through icould for example just isn’t present to aid guidance and context for learners.

An employment sector also utilising this technology to connect with students is the Construction sector through their Construction Live events. It’s positive that a sector is showing initiative to connect with education and especially a sector that has struggled to provide other connecting opportunities such as work experience and employer visits in the past. Here a Chat facility is the main method for providing interaction with the audience.

Evidence

This is a fairly new trend in CEIAG embracing fairly new technology so research of impact on students seems limited but the Careers & Enterprise Company’s “What Works” series does include a publication on Careers websites which includes those sites utilising videos for CEIAG learning. The evidence relatable to live streams concludes that

Information-based career websites need to exist in the context of a wider offline
careers support program

to have the most impact but also that online support that facilitates communication

can lead to positive outcomes such as gains in career decidedness and self-knowledge, gains in satisfaction with future career prospects, and in career exploration behaviours.

This explains how important the interactive nature of CEIAG live streams and follow up from CEIAG staff in the educational setting are to their success.

To counter those positive findings is evidence from wider technology in Education studies

Which seems to suggest that having delivery from a practitioner in the room helps students attainment rather than experiencing the delivery remotely either at the same time or later. Could this be relatable to CEIAG provision by suggesting that employers ineraction with young people has more value if those employers are in the room?

Convenience or Impact

For employers looking to efficiently use their staff for educational outreach work, CEIAG live streams seem like a win-win provision to be involved with. For a short amount of commitment it is possible to reach many more learners than, for example, a team of employees would at a school careers fair. For schools, also time pressed and perhaps struggling to make links with employers from particular career areas, they also offer convenience and a quick win for providing evidence that they are offering CEIAG activities. The value of such provision though is still to be determined but the available evidence seems to suggest that what value it offers relies heavily on follow-up work in the school and the quality of interaction offered during the broadcast.

 

 

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Bored students at Careers events (part 2)

Part one here: https://fecareersiag.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/a-picture-collection-bored-students-at-careers-events/

 

The girl on the left: “Ah, you’re taking a photo of me I see and I am so not impressed.”

 

“Miss, no WAY!” *hides under coat*

 

 

Chap on the right is thinking, “I’m never coming to this office again.”

 

 

 

Picture bottom left – “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”

 

 

 

The boy at the front, turning back seems to be crying out with his eyes for the sweet, sweet release of gentle death (or just the end of period 2) to get him out of there.

 

The girl in the bottom right picture looking over her shoulder!

As previously, putting on Careers events is hard work and to be celebrated for the positive outcomes they achieve. There will always be the odd nonplussed teenager who’s momentary grimace will make it into any quick promo snap. Keep putting on those careers events because we know they work and tell the world about them so the outdated view of careers work in schools becomes exactly that, outdated.

A picture collection: Bored students at Careers events

Getting CEIAG events organised, planned and running is no mean feat. You’ve done all of the prep work, you’ve booked the guests months in advance, managed to find a free room and then held off other members of staff trying to see if they can pinch it at the last-minute, you’ve reserved a parking space, smoothed things over with the lesson teachers that will have to supervise pupils a little over excited that something different is happening and then, the time arrives.

Your Careers event is finally taking place.

Perhaps a member of the Senior Team pops their head in and agrees that “it’s very important that they think of their futures, isn’t it,” perhaps the speaker isn’t as jovial or attention grabbing in front of the rows of hard to impress teenagers as they were in your planning meeting, perhaps the TA you were promised is off sick without cover and you…well, you just want everything to go well. You would like the pupils to get something positive from the event, for the feedback sheets to show they’ve taken something in and begun to reflect on their own future but it would also just be great if you could get a quick photo for the school website to show parents and the world that Careers work does happen here. Now you just need to find those interested looking faces to take a quick pic…

Classic “is this really going to last till break miss?” face on the young lady

 

Never snap when the 2am GTA streaming session is about to show itself in a yawn (bottom right 2nd pic)

 

A classic example of the “always frame it to miss out the back row kids” rule

 

“Sir! I said don’t take a photo!”

 

Add your own examples in the comments, none of us have been immune to the odd sour face messing up a photo of a great CEIAG event. Once, on a trip to a Russell Group University, I had a Year 10 flat-out refuse to take part in the group photo at the end of the day and went and stood by the car. The rest of group soon followed which meant I had a full on strike on my hands and had no photo for an expectant Headteacher looking for a good news story when we got back. I hope you enjoy your start to the new school year and are planning lots of exciting CEIAG events for teenagers to look nonplussed in.

The logical failure of the 2017 CBI Education & Skills Survey

Like any membership lobbying organisation, the CBI support their members to make them look as good as possible and promote the greater value of and worth of business to society. They have their work cut out, surveys show that the general public is distrustful with less than half believing British businesses act ethically, so their annual survey of business leaders (The CBI/Pearson Education & Skills Survey) is a chance to shift the focus elsewhere.

The 2017 iteration is drawn from an online questionnaire completed by 344 employers. (It is worth comparing at the outset this methodology against other recent employer surveys such as the recent DfE Employer perspective survey (which I blogged on here) which was drawn from telephone interviews with over 18,000 establishments across the labour market including non-profit organisations but more on that later).

The scale of employer engagement in education is an important topic with the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) tasked with expanding this work to improve CEIAG provision and so prove the research evidence of the benefits to be gained for students. Future qualification and pathway policy is also heavily geared towards gaining employer buy in and engagement. This means that establishing a base point of employer engagement is vital in judging progress and knowing where to target resources. The CEC has already made progress in this area with their Cold Spots research. Using a range of data points and sources, this shows that outcomes for young people (much like HE progression and academic achievement rates) varies greatly across the different regions of the UK.

coldspots1

One of the data points used to model the amount of employer engagement is the UKCES Employer Perspectives Survey 2014. This is the preceding biannual release of the DfE Employer Perspective Survey mentioned above before the closure of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills in March 2017 which the DfE then took over.

That the CEC is using this data on employer engagement and not information published by the CBI is the first hint that the two sources on employer engagement tell very different tales.

The CBI survey offers useful views on the value business leaders places on their required skills from school leavers

cbi2

plus their satisfaction on school leaver skill levels

cbi1

and a plea for more young people to be speakers of foreign languages (page 34). The Employer Perspectives survey meanwhile does not break down employer satisfaction with school leavers into skill areas but by age of recruits (fig 3.7) so comparisons are difficult but, at all ages, it found employers were more satisfied than dissatisfied with the skill levels of their young recruits.

The survey begins to raise eyebrows though with the claims of employer engagement with education including the number of firms that offer work experience. Let’s remind ourselves what the 2017 Employer Perspectives Survey reported,

  • That 65% of employers thought that relevant work experience is a critical or significant factor when taking on a recruit but only 38% of employers had offered a work experience opportunity in the past 12 months
  • There is a huge variation between the sectors that offer work experience (fig 3.9)
  • Only 10% of employers offered work inspiration activities to students

This differs drastically to the findings of the CBI Survey that 81% of employers had some links with education

cbi3

and that these links were “extensive in all parts of the UK.” Not only is this claim widely divergent with the finding from a methodologically more detailed and comprehensive survey, it also undermines the very basis on which the CEC has prioritised its work across the country. Regarding employer links with education, the CBI says there are no cold spots.

The differences continue in the value of work experience with only 23% of businesses reporting that relevant work experience is an “important” factor when recruiting a young person (fig 2.1 pictured above) which is well below the 65% of employers reporting similar in the Employer Perspectives Survey. There is also a lack of consistency of expectations in the CBI results with employers also stating that 54% were not satisfied with school leavers relevant work experience (fig 2.3 pictured above). Why would employers be unsatisfied with something they’ve also deemed not important to recruitment?

The data on the types of provision employers offer through their links with schools is couched in a presentational sleight of hand as the percentages are offered as percentages of those business who have education links, not a percentage of the total businesses. Thus

cbi4

So the CBI is not claiming that 81% of employers provide careers advice talks but that 81% of the 81% with links to education provide careers advice talks. Because we have the total numbers of employers the CBI received responses from (344) we can work this back – 81% of 344 = 279, 81% of 279 = 225, 225 divided by 344 = the CBI is actually reporting that 65% of employers offer careers advice talks. The Employer Perspectives Survey concluded that just 10% of employers offer careers inspirations activities including careers talks.

The differences between the two surveys continue when discussing work experience. The CBI concludes (using the same method above) that around 63% of employers offer work experience placements. The Employer Perspectives Survey reported 38% of employers offered placements and that differences between industries can be stark.

skills report4

The CBI survey also includes business views on both the work of the CEC and the current state of CEIAG provision. They find that the CEC still has plenty of scope to increase their connections with business as only 7% of respondents were engaged with the Company.

cbi5

That 79% businesses were unaware of the work of the CEC is not surprising when you also consider that only 28% of employers are aware of the new GCSE grading system.

cbi6

The CBI though are wholly positive about the need and remit of the CEC

The CBI fully supports their work which has a focus on practical, enabling solutions.

and

Underpinned by sufficient resources, the CEC should play a major role in England in
supporting schools and businesses to develop productive relationships to the benefit of young people.

but the views of the businesses surveyed are extremely negative about the quality of CEIAG provision

cbi7

84% of businesses reporting that Careers advice is not good enough is an overwhelming verdict but also similar percentage to the four previous survey results show in 3.16. The CBI goes strong on its verdict on current Careers provision

These are seriously troubling results. They highlight the urgent need for radical improvement.

This all adds up to a muddled picture offered by the CBI.

They and the employers they surveyed are claiming that 81% of business have links with schools across the country, 65% offer careers advice talks and 63% offer work experience placements. This equates to a large-scale engagement with education yet, it is these same employers from whom 79% had not heard of the work of the CEC. It is from these same employers that less than a third were aware of the introduction of whole new GCSEs and grading systems. The same employers who are engaged with education to offer huge amounts of careers provision but 84% of them also reported unsatisfaction with the Careers advice offered. The solution offered by the CBI to change these views? More engagement with education through the CEC.

Establishing hard quantitative data on employer engagement is not easy as previous studies have shown. Using only limited survey data though can mean results with the failures of logic shown above. The CBI cannot continue to claim that the majority of employers are playing their part in provision only to then be overwhelmingly critical of the scale, quality and outcomes of that provision.

When is experience of the world of work, actually experience of the world of work?

Any business that invests time, staff commitment and funding into careers related activities should be applauded and encouraged by those of us keen to engage. Most engagement activities usually fall into a well versed range of formats of interaction (from p20) that fit with the time and schedule commitments both parties are able to invest so new ideas and resources are always intriguing. This is why I noticed the launch of “The World’s first immersive work experience simulator: The LifeSkills Pod” from Barclays last week.

 

As a whole, the Lifeskills program is an outstanding corporate effort to offer young people insights into employability. I find the lesson plans very good and adaptable, the site offers applicable advice for young people, the ability to secure actual work experience placements is great and the backing they have received means they have been able to spread the word to parents as well through TV advertising.

The Lifeskills Pod looks like huge fun for students and the launch gained an enormous (for a careers resource) amount of press coverage in national titles such as the Guardian, the local press and digital focused publications. In all of those write ups, alongside the main positive PR message, journalists can’t also help but draw the conclusion that this resource only exists due to the insufficient number of work experience opportunities for students. The Careers leader of the school involved in the launch is quoted as voicing a problem all careers practitioners will be familiar with,

It was difficult to find quality work experience placements for the 270 students in the year group, said Simon Beck, the assistant head teacher of Lister Community school, with some students reporting they only made tea and had not gained any useful skills.

As a result, the school scrapped the work experience placement scheme and replaced it with a world of work week.

which is a fine solution but, ultimately, doesn’t help confront the problem of the mismatch between the demand for work experience and the scarcity of opportunities on offer to young people.

The demand from employers for prospective employees to have work experience completely exceeds the number of employers who actually offer work experience and that is even before the quality of the work experience placements on offer is considered. This conundrum was best highlighted by Sarah O’Connor writing in the FT about the Pod’s launch (for those without an FT log in, a screen shot is here).

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills, a government-funded organisation, surveyed 18,000 employers last year and found that 80 per cent offered no work experience placements to schools. Yet two-thirds said work experience was the most critical factor when they recruit.

At which point we should ask how does the experience of the Lifeskills Pod measure up against the learning opportunities that real life work experience offers and where does it fit in the full range of “experience of the world of work” activities?

Vs actual work experience

In the Pod, students watch pre-recorded video on a TV screen, choose from a multiple choice set of actions to resolve an issue and interact with a large touch screen in a small room for around ten minutes. Many of the learning opportunities we would all recognise from traditional work experience are absent from this, the young person takes no responsibility for planning their journey to work to arrive on time, they do not learn to cope with the tiredness that comes from a longer working day, they do not see how colleagues interact with each other in professional situations, they do not have to adapt their body language to cope with different interactions etc. The feedback from the students in all of the articles indicates that they felt the virtual situations made them think about the professional course of action in each short scenario and is clearly positive but I fear that this does not mean that the experience was substantive enough to qualify as “work experience.” How much value, for example, would a prospective future employer confer to the inclusion of “attended a Lifeskills Pod session” on a CV compared to an actual period of work experience?

Vs “experience of the world of work”

If the Pod does not attempt to realistically mirror work experience, does it then offer students the benefits of experiencing the world of work similar to some of the other activities linked to above? The research from the Education & Employers Taskforce is useful here because it considers all experiences of the world of work and offers the Employer Engagement Cycle as a way of describing those benefits. For example the Pod could offer students the chance to improve their confidence and practice skills desired by employers in a low pressure environment that would enhance their Human capital skills. As the evidence from the Education & Employers Taskforce suggests though, the impact short, episodic, non assessed employer engagement experiences offer is considered to have little benefit to individuals. Where the real benefit from such experience comes from is in the Social and Cultural capital sections. The human networks gained from actual work experience are missing from the Pod experience, there is no individually tailored advice or interactions with older colleagues whose voices are seen as ‘authentic’ and there is no human link made to call back on for a reference or further opportunities later on in the student’s progression.

The media reporting of the launch is reductive but clearly positions the resource as a replacement for work experience rather than an employability resource.

lifeskillspod1

which is over-reaching the gains of the activity and, again, only highlights why such a resource would be needed in the first place, as O’Connor notes in the FT

The simulator is a nifty idea, but it is also a sign that too many employers are doing too little for the next generation.

The use of a range of employer engagement activities to supplement and support work experience is best practice careers work and advocated by all stakeholders in the sector such as the CDI and the Gatsby Foundation. It is the foundation of such initiatives as the London 100 hours challenge and offers both education providers and employers the greatest flexibility to get involved. Within the range of this engagement comes though a responsibility to properly signal what all stakeholders can expect from each activity. Overselling or overreaching the experience, benefits or likely outcomes of a resource or activity is only likely to lead to the perceived ‘gap’ in employability skills widening and stakeholders retracting from those activities which do require significant commitment such as actual work experience.

Which all means the Pod should be considered as a resource much like any other virtual, online careers experience. Used with students alongside a range of other activities (such as in the “world of work” week mentioned above) the Pod is a fantastically exciting resource, but this does not mean it should be seen as a solution for the lack of work experience placements currently offered by UK businesses to schools.

The Employer Engagement Cycle

the-employer-engagement-cycle

This blog from the Education and Employers taskforce is worth linking to and reading in it’s entirety for a reminder of why employer engagement matters.

When you’re struggling to plan in employer engagement provision in school, perhaps because the employers are hard to reach or Senior Leaders are being protective over missed learning time or it seems there’s just too much else on the school calendar, it’s always worth remembering why such provision matters. The evidence is clear, everyone involved in employer engagement (student, education & businesses) report positive outcomes and the actual quantitative data for students shows the impact in their destinations and earnings potential.

The research joins a growing body of literature that demands policy makers and practitioners think afresh of employer engagement initiatives, how they relate to a young person’s wider life and what truly drives the significant benefits many appear to experience.

Workshop at David Andrews 17th Annual CEG conference November 2014

David has very kindly asked me to lead a workshop at his forthcoming conference for CEG advisers in schools in November. I’ve been tasked to cover “Practical approaches to building employer engagement activities into a school careers program” in my slot. I’ve never been to this annual conference but some local colleagues attended last year and loved it so I’m very excited about some quality careers learning and hearing from the headline speakers such as Tristram Hooley and Karen O’Donoghue, but also I’m extremely conscious that I want to put on a worthwhile session. Getting the financial backing to attend any CPD isn’t easy these days (even to competitively priced events like this) so I’m very mindful that any delegates that do come and see me (those lost on their way to the toilets, those who ticked the wrong box on the booking sheet etc) feel that they’ve got a lot of value from the session.

So, if you were/are attending, what would you find helpful to hear about and discuss regarding engaging employers and getting them into school? I’ve got numerous hilarious and highly detailed tales of never-ending email trails about organising visits or speakers (“and then, we had to change it to the 14th because it clashed with a science practical!”) but I sense that the CEIAG world might not yet be ready for such high stakes drama. So far my rough plan is to cover not just the different types of interaction we have done and do but the conditions in school that help get those interactions on the timetable in the first place, experiences that have got the best feedback from students, things I’ve thought worked well and some cringe worthy nuggets of when things go terribly wrong thrown in for good measure.

Let me know what you would place value on hearing about either in the comments below or through twitter. Thanks.