Workpays

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.

 

 

We are beset on all sides by the tyranny of bad CEIAG reports

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“say jobs of the future again, I dare you, I double dare you”

A lot of reports get published that look at the state of CEIAG provision for young people in the UK and offer improvement ideas. As well as policy makers there are a vast number of stakeholder organisations in this arena and across areas such as social mobility, apprenticeships, vocational education that all overlap with Careers Advice. Some of these organisations are more upfront in the policy ambitions of their backers than others but all have found that publishing a report is a proven method of gaining those all important media column inches if you want to advance your agenda.

Some sink, never to pass over the desks of Ministers while others take center stage in shaping Government thinking. The quality spectrum of these reports is wide and two came out recently that, to my mind, should be filed at the weaker end of the publication pool.

First up came Beyond the Numbers: Incentivising & implementing better apprenticeships from the University of Sheffield. Branded under their “Sheffield Solutions” research arm, the publication was based on a number of interviews with

local and national stakeholders in education, training and youth services, staff members – including tutors, trainers and employers

views from apprentices which were collected from

two focus groups and a number of in-depth, semi-structured interviews

as well as previous publications. The report includes quotes and stories that rehash the cliches of school CEIAG’s relationship to apprenticeships, including a lack of information regarding alternative to HE routes, a belief that apprenticeships were treated as a second class pathway and that high achieving pupils were actively discouraged from applying for them. The actual application figures of young people compared to the opportunities on offer, isn’t considered.

Where the report really falls down though is in it’s recommendations for schools

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  1. Rethinking school league tables to include apprenticeships – this already happens. When you go the DfE school comparison site you can find individual school data through school name, distance to your postcode, through Local Authority area or through Parliamentary Constituency. Users can then scroll down past huge amounts of information about the school to find the Pupil Destinations – what pupils did after key stage 4 drop down menu and, hey presto, there is that information.

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You can also find this data about key stage 5 leavers on the 16-18 tab further up the page.

Apprenticeship destination information is a single drop on a website that is an ocean of information about each school from the number of teachers, to the performance of disadvantaged pupils, to the number of pupils entered in Physics, Biology and Chemistry. Data on pupils remaining in education or employment after leaving the school is included in the headline data

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but the sheer amount of other information means that users are left to navigate to find what is important to them.

2. Extra training and resources for Careers Advisers in school about apprenticeships – nobody is ever going to say ‘no’ to more resources or extra training which is why the DfE has contracted organisations across the country to offer this to schools. The provider across the Midlands is Workpays. They will come into school to offer provision for students, send you resources and offer training. The DfE has a page with resources for schools and advisers and the ASK (Apprenticeship Support & Knowledge) providers will come and offer events for students. The University of Sheffield is, again, recommending something that already exists.

3. Coordinated, single application process for apprenticeships – Guess what, it already exists. Find An Apprenticeship is not a great website (it’s text search is terrible) but it is a single, coordinated portal for apprenticeships. All of the apprenticeships, they’re all on there. What it is not though is a single application process as many apprenticeship vacancies require an applicant to click through to the employer website to register (again) and complete an application. This is something that is out of the hands of Government as many employers will insist on their own hiring methods that are standardized across their business for all job roles. This is part of the challenge when supporting a young person through a labyrinth registration process on a company website full of business jargon but it fits established employer HR practices.

So all three of the recommendations for education are, to some extent, already in place which highlights how, while diagnosing problems with CEIAG provision may be achievable, offering solutions requires more a real understanding of the landscape.

The other report that caught my attention was Averting a 90Bn GDP crises: A report on the image and recruitment crises facing the built environment carried out by Kier Group by polling “2000 secondary school teachers, advisers and parents.” The Group, a profitable player in the UK construction market, look very keen to play their part in improving student career advice by pledging 1% of their workforce to act as ambassadors and place a “virtual world plaque” on sites to help the public “explore a digital world of information on a project.” They hope that these initiatives will begin to change widely held views of their industry as their poll reports 73% of parents not wanting their child to pursue a career in the sector and, despite 76% knowing that apprenticeships lead to careers in construction, 45% wouldn’t encourage their child to take an apprenticeship when leaving school. To it’s credit the report gives context to the current CEIAG landscape by devoting a whole page the loss of funding and the placing of the legal duty on schools in 2012.

Where the report fails to offer much value is, again, in the recommended solutions, both those from within the construction industry and from government, to improve the situation. Despite clearly identifying that parents are a persuasive and influential negative voice against young people aspiring to work in their industry they suggest nothing to then engage with parents. That parents are an important voice in shaping the career views of a young person is backed up by other data and we also have clear indications of how young people would like to receive their CEIAG and what types of provision help them most. An important type of provision is work experience and workplace visits, the report also fails to acknowledge or offer a proposal to grow the dearth of these opportunities in the sector.

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The 1% workforce ambassador pledge will hopefully, from a very low base, improve the number of work inspiration opportunities.

From Government they ask that the Careers & Enterprise Company is allowed to continue it’s work (it will be so this isn’t much of recommendation) and

2. Mandate that every school gives children a minimum of three one hour careers advice sessions – the first session with a school advisor, follow up sessions with ambassadors from relevant industries.
3. Ensuring the frameworks and resources are in place to support schools and colleges to meet all of the eight benchmarks identified by the Gatsby Foundation14 for best practice careers advice
4. Mandate that the careers advice process begins as early as possible in a young person’s life to enable them to make informed choices about their subject/course selection

which are all useful and worthwhile suggestions but after earlier acknowledging that

as part of the difficult choices made through austerity measures, funding for Connexions was cut, leaving a significant responsibility largely resting with schools themselves

and that

given substantial and repeated budget cuts, other schools are unable to provide the kind of service that they would aspire to

the report fails to then include the obvious point that these (uncosted) increases in service provision would require more funding. This shows a lack of willingness to bring up the funding of public services for the wider benefit and a failure to acknowledge the financial reality in schools.

Reports that help shine attention to the issues with employer engagement and CEIAG in schools but also then offer constructive solutions that work within the realities of the landscape are to be welcomed. Reports that finger point at a Careers service under funded and unable to solve all of the problems laid at it’s door without significant collaboration and investment, only have one purpose; to shift the focus of blame away from the other stakeholders.