Recent research

The Wolf Report 2011 into how vocational education for 14-19 year olds.   Professor Alison Wolf was asked to carry out an independent review to consider how vocational education for 14- to 19-year-olds can be improved in order to promote successful progression into the labour market and into higher level education and training routes. She was also asked to provide practical recommendations to help inform future policy direction, taking into account current financial constraints. One of her conclusions was that “helping young people to obtain genuine work experience – and, therefore, what the CBI calls ‘employability skills’ – should be one of the highest priorities for 16-18 education policy in the next few years”.  The full report and the government response to it can be accessed here.

survey of schools submitted to the House of Commons Education Select Committee in November 2012 showed that 83.5% of schools have reduced provision since the new duty for schools to ‘secure access to independent careers guidance’ for their students took effect from September 2012.

In May 2013, Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna and Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg launched a report by Labour’s high level Skills Taskforce on a radical overhaul of vocational learning and a One Nation skills system. The taskforce is chaired by Professor Chris Husbands, Director of the Institute of Education, and comprises business and education experts. The report concluded that with regard to the 14-19 year old curriculum, “four important criteria should be met:

  • It should provide a core of learning for all, ensuring high levels of literacy and numeracy;
  • an entitlement to programmes of study which prepare young people for adult life;
  • elements of choice which open routes to further study and employment;
  • and all young people should undertake work experience and community activity.

The e-Skills submission to the Taskforce emphasized a further relevant point that employers are often unsure of what constitutes good work experience and how to go about offering it to young people. “There are good practice examples of local collaboration between schools / colleges and employers and we believe these can be built upon. However, feedback from some employers suggests that they lack confidence to offer worthwhile work placements for young people. Employer owned partnerships, could create a guidance document for employers to make this easier for them to provide more high quality placements.”

Woolf J, Caine D, Price K, Wisdom B and Sillars S, joint submission to the Skills Taskforce by Cogent, Creative Skillset, e-Skills UK, People 1st and Semta, 2013. These bodies represent a wide cross section of industries. Cogent represents the life sciences, industrial sciences and nuclear sectors. Creative Skillset represents employers in entertainment, fashion, publishing and advertising. ENskills UK represents the software, internet and computer gaming industry. People 1st represents employers in hospitality, transport, travel and tourism. Semta represents the advanced manufacturing and engineering industries including aerospace and defence, automotive, marine, metals and electronics.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) Youth Inquiry showed that just 22 per cent of employers recruit young people (aged 16 to 24). Of these, between 12 per cent and 29 per cent do not find them well-prepared for work. The main reason cited is a lack of experience of the working world or ‘life experience’, followed by a lack of the required skills or competencies (mostly applying to graduates and less to school and college leavers), poor attitude or a lack of motivation, and lastly poor education and literacy and numeracy skills. UKCES highlights the importance of structured work experience in preparing young people, including those following the academic route, for the world of work.

UK Commission for Employment and Skills (2012) Youth Inquiry Evidence Base, Wath-upon-Dearne: UKCES


A recent survey by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) shows that most employers do not specifically target young people with their recruitment practices and often fail to take into account the lack of work experience all young people inevitably have early on in their working lives. The result is “a real mismatch between employers’ expectations of young people during the recruitment process and young people’s understanding of what is expected of them.”

Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (2013) Employers Are From Mars, Young People Are From Venus: Addressing the young people/jobs mismatch, London: CIPD