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Research Conference 2016

This joint conference hosted by the Edge Foundation and the Education and Employers Charity, with support from the Department for Education (England), the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and Barclays Lifeskills, presented new research on employer engagement in education and technical pathways, and explored implications for policy and practice.  The conference shared research insights from around the world.

Background to the conference

Employer engagement in education and training has become a hot topic for policy makers and practitioners around the world. Over recent years, Governments and other stakeholders have invested significant resource in promoting and enabling closer links between employers and schools, colleges, universities and training providers.  Policy objectives include:

  • Tackling skills shortage/skills mismatch
  • Improving youth skills relevant to dynamic labour market demand
  • Harnessing community resources to improve attainment
  • Putting coherent pathways in place for young people moving through educational and training provision
  • Addressing inequalities in outcomes, promoting social mobility and challenging gender stereotyping.

The OECD has looked at the question of employer engagement from the perspectives of skills provision (Learning for Jobs), gender inequality (The ABC of Gender Inequality) and currently with specific emphasis on careers provision and school-to-work transitions within the multi-national project Skills Beyond School: Work-based Learning in Vocational Education and Training.  The EU has funded work connecting schools with STEM industries as part of a strategy to tackle skills shortages (Ingenious) and CEDEFOP and the Inter-American Development Bank have explored the relationship in terms of skills mismatch and youth demand for vocational training.  The World Bank has looked at connections between classrooms and workplaces in terms of enterprise education, exploring ways to encourage and enable entrepreneurialism particularly in developing countries. UNESCO and the International Labor Organisation have focused particularly on the theme from the perspective of youth employment.

In England, the Department for Education has looked to secondary schools to integrate employer engagement within careers provision; and, in response to the Wolf report, embedded employer links as a core element of 16-19 provision in schools and colleges, particularly to enrich vocational delivery and enhance pupil preparation for employment. Similar steps have been made in Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy and the actions of the governments in Wales and Northern Ireland. Employers are seen as central to the future of apprenticeship programmes for young people and adults alike.

In sponsoring University Technical Colleges and Studio Schools in England, the Department for Education has supported new institutional models designed to enable profound employer engagement across the curriculum.  Around the world, employer engagement has become a mainstream element of educational and training provision - with significant practice in Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Switzerland and the United States.

Employer engagement in education: research, practice and policy

While governments champion employer engagement, relevant research into its impact and effective delivery have struggled to keep pace. Over recent years, the Education and Employers Charity and the Edge Foundation have between them devoted considerable energy and resource to building and sharing knowledge relevant to policy and practice. Through original research, commissions and within a series of internationally-focused conferences and seminars, they have worked to identify and amplify evidence and analysis of relevance to all who are interested in understanding employer engagement and optimising its impact.