Closing the gap between education and employment

by Anthony Mann
Director of Policy and Research, Education and Employers Taskforce

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 have included:

  • 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 Equality in Education and currently with specific emphasis on careers provision and school-to-work transitions within projects such as Skills Beyond School and 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.

Two upcoming events will offer a timely opportunity for closing the gap between education and employment:

On 29 and 30 June the Skills Summit in Bergen Norway, will convene ministers with responsibility for a range of skills-relevant portfolios, including education, employment, economic development, regional policy and government co-ordination. Drawing on this wide range of perspectives, The Skills Summit 2016 will provide Ministers with an opportunity to discuss the benefits and challenges of building effective whole-of-government and whole-of-society skills strategies, while at the same time providing a forum to exchange views on how best to maximize countries’ skills potential to boost productivity, innovation and social inclusion.

Next month sees an unprecedented coming together of researchers, policy makers and practitioners at the international Conference on Employer Engagement in Education and Training held in London on 21 and 22 July, with the participation of OECD Director for Education and Skills, Andreas Schleicher, and Senior Policy Analyst Simon Field. This conference aims to take stock of the best quality research exploring the impact and delivery of employer engagement in education and training in order to understand the implications for effective, efficient and equitable policy and practice.

The Skills Summit, Bergen, Norway 2016
London Conference on Employer Engagement in Education and Training
Skills Matter: Further Results from the Survey of Adult Skills
OECD Reviews of Vocational Education and Training: Learning for Jobs
The ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Aptitude, Behaviour, Confidence
Photo credit: Job as target in the careers road @Shutterstock

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