Posted by

Gary Forrest, Director of Education for Employability

27 Oct 2015

There is widespread recognition among business and education communities that work-related learning is essential to the preparation of young people for transition to adulthood.  I was policy lead and wrote the statutory guidance for schools when the requirement for work-related learning was introduced in 2004.  That requirement was removed in 2010, but there have been calls for its return.

Work-related learning was defined as planned activity that uses the context of work to develop knowledge, skills and understanding useful in work. It had three elements: 

Learning about work is about providing opportunities for students to develop knowledge and understanding of work and enterprise.

Learning through work is about providing opportunities for students to learn from direct experiences of work, such as work experience.

Learning for work is about developing skills for enterprise and employability, through problem-solving activities, work simulations, and mock interviews.

These three strands of work-related learning are still relevant in helping schools design a suitable curriculum. However, perhaps the concept of educating for employability is more useful today. A young person’s employability is the product of their qualifications, skills and attitudes.  Attainment in qualifications is clearly important, but a narrow focus on qualifications will not develop the wider skills and work-readiness employers seek.

Educating for employability isn’t just about using work as a context. It includes skills developed in the formal curriculum, such as literacy and numeracy, creativity, and problem solving. It also includes the socialisation of young people – e.g. punctuality, dress, and manners. In this sense young people are being prepared for the world of work via the normal working practices of schools.

In the current context, what is helping and hindering schools to develop a curriculum for employability?  Schools’ decisions on the curriculum are influenced by four main drivers; summed up as FISH – Funding, Inspection, Statutory and Hearts and minds.

Largely speaking, government funding for work-related activities, such as work experience, has been withdrawn or heavily reduced in recent years. Support organisations, such as Education Business Partnerships and careers companies have also seen their funding cut. In difficult financial conditions, schools are finding it difficult to allocate adequate resources from their general budgets.

Inspection of schools is important, so I’m pleased that Ofsted is increasing its focus on this area in the new Common Inspection Framework.

Statutory requirements are important, so a reintroduction of the requirements for work-related learning and careers education in the statutory curriculum would be helpful. The revised National Curriculum doesn’t go far enough.

The fourth driver is hearts and minds. If school leaders believe something has educational value and is in the best interests of young people, they will make every effort to provide it.

The work of the BCC, Education Business Partnerships and the Careers and Enterprise Company is vital in enabling employers to promote the message and offer effective support to schools in educating young people for employability.

Gary Forrest, Director, Education for Employability

[email protected]

Twitter @garydforrest 

All views expressed in guest blogs are that of the authors, and not of the British Chambers of Commerce.