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A third of English school children are not receiving the minimum levels of work experience and contact with employers targeted by the government’s careers strategy, according to new analysis.
Projections by the Careers & Enterprise Company, which was set up by the government in 2014 to strengthen students’ transition to working life, show that about 3.3m work experience placements, workplace visits and presentations by employers are being offered each year to children — far fewer than the 5m necessary to meet official targets for each child to have seven “encounters” during their schooling.
The targets are based on research suggesting that exposure to working life increases pupils’ motivations and boosts exam results for those at risk of failing to receive minimum qualifications.
From September, all schools in England will be legally required to appoint a senior careers leader and publish their strategy for providing students with careers guidance.
Claudia Harris, chief executive of the Careers & Enterprise Company, said: “English businesses need to engage with schools on a major scale to get young people ready for the world of work. Just doing what we’re already doing won’t be enough.”
She said careers guidance had improved markedly in recent years and the targets could be met if businesses offered one activity to students for every seven of its employees.
The public sector has typically been the most active in offering opportunities for school children, with visits, presentations and work experience in fields such as education, social work and administration. Smaller companies, and those in construction, hotels, restaurants, wholesale and retail have been less involved in such initiatives.
Some businesses have expressed concerns that they do not have the resources or expertise to supervise children. But Mark Carter, business support manager at Dale Power Solutions, an engineering company based in Scarborough, argued that his firm’s efforts in recent years to offer work experience had helped trigger a surge in demand for apprenticeships.
Melanie Richards, deputy chair of KPMG, the accountancy and consultancy group, which offers work experience placements and meetings to 17,000 pupils each year, said: “It’s a way of ensuring we get the right recruits but also a big volunteering opportunity for our staff. We see this as giving to the community but also motivational and a way for our staff to learn.”