The different ways employers can engage with schools

  • Emma Finamore
  • 18 April 2019

Engaging with schools is vital for employers wanting to ensure the right school leavers apply for their programmes. But there are more effective ways of engaging than just the odd school-assembly talk.

It’s easy to think that school engagement means simply visiting a school and delivering a talk to a hall of young people, outlining your business and the opportunities on offer. But it’s more complicated than that.

The particular type of engagement, where it takes place, with whom and how often, all factor in the effectiveness of an employer’s connections with a school. We believe that taking a little more time and consideration when planning engagement will lead to better results for businesses.

The facts

We know from extensive research that careers advisers are interested in many forms of employer engagement for their students. Talks and workshops are the most popular, followed by work shadowing schemes, posters for the school, insight days/open days at the company workplace, careers magazines/brochures and employer-led competitions for students.

Our research also shows that both staff and students need this engagement. Classroom teachers are frequently asked to provide students with careers advice, despite not being trained specifically to do so. Over a quarter of teachers are asked about careers advice from students on most days. They are also approached by parents (during events like parents’ evenings). But while nearly all of them (97%) know about university options, less than half are aware of apprenticeships, school leaver programmes and work shadowing schemes. Employer engagement could help close this knowledge gap.

Teachers want to be better informed: over 80% of them say that they wish they knew more about options for their pupils. We also know that careers advisers in schools want to hear from employers.

For pupils themselves, too, engagement is key. It improves knowledge around options other than university, as well as providing more general advantages: we know from the Gatsby Benchmarks (specifically, Gatsby Benchmark 5) that meaningful engagement with professionals outside school is essential to increasing the employability of young people.

Students have poor employer recall after engagement—they often don’t remember who came to their career fairs or assemblies, for example. As one head teacher told us: “Most don’t remember the name of their geography teacher.”

Employer engagement is now a legal requirement of schools. Recent updates to the government's statutory guidance on careers education mean that schools are now obligated to facilitate interactions between their students and employers/training providers.

However, engaging with schools is time-consuming. Research shows that it takes employers an average of over eight hours and 30 minutes to build a relationship with a school: multiple visits are required to build a real partnership.

How can employers engage?

To combat the fact that pupils demonstrate poor recall of employers with whom they have already engaged, it’s worth considering activities that offer good focus on your business. One way to do that is to add stages to the process, or interact with young people rather than speaking at them. Instead of, say, delivering a straightforward talk, an employer could offer to deliver CV workshops with classes—in which two-way conversations will take place—or career ‘speed-dating’ sessions, where young people are designated a set amount of time to speak with employers one-to-one, finding out anything about the business that might interest them.

It’s also worth remembering that engagement with schools doesn’t necessarily mean engagement in schools. Some of the most effective events will take place on your premises, not in schools or colleges, and with parents (the most important influencers in young people’s career decisions) not just students. Workplace activities will allow young people and their parents to see where they might be working. They can get a feel for the business, and you’ll only be engaging with students who have a genuine interest.

These ideas align with the most popular methods of engagement with schools: talks and workshops, work shadowing schemes and insight days/open days at the company workplace.

For more detailed research on schools and the methods employers should consider when reaching out to them, visit the AllAboutResearch research hub.

Top Insights

  • It's beneficial for young people to engage with employers in the workplace—it’s more genuine.
  • Talks and workshops are the most popular modes of engagement, followed by work shadowing schemes.
  • Invite parents to events. Parents are the major influencer of young people, and 8/10 make big decisions in conjunction with their parents.
  • 88.4% of careers advisers stay up-to-date by attending events.
  • Pupils demonstrate poor recall of employers they have already engaged with, so it’s worth considering activities that offer good focus on your business.