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While the lack of sunshine might suggest otherwise, summer is most definitely here. As schools and colleges close and everyone heads off on their hols, this month I am focused on the world of work.

As you will know from previous posts, Edge is concerned that many young people do not have access to a good breadth of quality career advice, information and guidance. Our Career Footsteps campaign was a significant part of our work to augment the careers offer provided by schools and to demonstrate that there are many pathways to a successful career.

At the heart of any careers advice programme, must be the opportunity to speak to employers, visit workplaces and ‘have a taste’ of professions and the world of work. This was born out last month when a survey of 1,855 students who attend University Technical Colleges (UTCs) found that the majority – 91 per cent – said talks by employers were most helpful in helping them plan their future careers. Of course there’s nothing like hearing it from the horse’s mouth and, when you’re a teenager, an older professional can be an inspirational figure, but there is far more to it than that.

Baker Dearing’s survey seems to support a wealth of research which suggests that direct employer engagement not only benefits young people in the short term, helping them to make informed decisions about their future, but also far into the future.

Research by the Institute for Employment Studies has shown that young people who have access to careers talks by employers feel more confident about their future (indeed 86 per cent of the UTC students are a self-assured lot, saying they were confident of getting a job suited to their skills when they finished their studies). Furthermore, they make more successful transitions from secondary schooling into employment, apprenticeships or high education and even earn higher salaries 10 years into their career than their peers.

Summer in the city

The value of employer engagement for young students was the theme of Edge’s annual conference this year which was held at BIS now the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy  in partnership with our friends at the Education and Employers Taskforce. Over two days we heard some fascinating speakers present research on the benefits of developing closer links between employers and schools, colleges, universities and training providers.

There was definitely an international feel with speakers – and delegates – travelling from as far afield as Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and even Mauritius. It was a packed programme exploring topics such as employer mentoring, future apprenticeships, the challenges of youth unemployment and how employer engagement can build social capital.

I do urge you to watch as many of the presentations as you have time for. They are a valuable resource for practitioners, facilitators, sponsors, employers and policy makers alike. If I had to pick one highlight, I think it would be the BBC Education Correspondent, Sean Coughlan, in conversation with Director and Special Advisor at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Andreas Schleicher.

He is probably best known as the man behind Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and he left Sean and the audience in no doubt that workplace learning is key for young people to develop the skills they need.

Summertime sadness

While all the talks, panel discussions and presentations were absorbing and insightful, I confess my favourite has to be Ten Years of Research by the Edge Foundation, presented by our own David Harbourne.

It is my favourite in part because I feel immensely proud to be leading an organisation which has contributed so much to the critical thinking on, and development of, education policy in the last few years.

Also because it seemed a fitting tribute to David, who after over a decade of leading on policy and research for Edge, is leaving to focus on his writing. We wish him well and also to our Marketing and PR Executive, Anna Ribenfors, who leaves Edge at the end of this month to pursue a new career. Anna’s brilliant communication and organisational skills have contributed to the smooth running and huge success of Edge events for over three years and none more so than this year’s conference.

Alice Barnard is chief executive of Edge

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