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We work closely with employers and universities

We work closely with employers and universities, so that young people can make an informed choice about their career path after they finish school.

For some students, the prospect of their time at school finishing can’t come soon enough; for others, it is filled with anxiety over choosing the right next step. How do learners get the best advice about what to do when their time at school comes to an end?

Of course, providing young people with structured and relevant careers guidance is, quite rightly, a legal requirement for all schools. As well as offering a comprehensive careers programme with high quality information about future study and job options, it is vital that all young people have sufficient opportunities to meet prospective employers; to experience the workplace; and to have access to further and higher education providers. There is no substitute for learning from the real practitioners.

This is especially important at the current time: while headline school leaver destinations at age 18 into university, work, etc. are broadly unchanged in percentage terms over the past decade, university course and career path preferences have changed materially. For example, degrees in history, modern languages, and education have seen big declines, while those in biological and other sciences have witnessed large increases. At the same time, degree apprenticeships are on the rise, as are careers where strong digital qualifications and creative skills are required.

The dynamic nature of school leaver preferences is one of the many reasons why employers and universities are an integral part of UTCs. Employers themselves engage students through project-based learning; this brings real-life workplace challenges into the classroom as part of the curriculum. They also offer mentoring and provide work experience to UTC students. Equally importantly, the profound and regular level of employer engagement provided by a broad range of companies ensures that student understanding of possible career paths, and the qualifications required, remains up-to-date. The same is also true of teachers! Of course, by spending a significant amount of time with different employers, UTC students gain an appreciation of a wide variety of jobs, as well as the poise to interact with adults, many of whom are senior professionals at the organisations they represent.

University engagement works in a similar way, often with departments collaborating with UTCs on aspects of research to aid student understanding of, and confidence in, experimental science. This provides an important introduction to the approach to learning which is expected of all students in higher education.

As Tiffany, a UTC alumna from Oxfordshire, says: “The whole UTC is set up in a very work-based way; we wore formal dress, worked working hours and learnt how to communicate with employers, focusing on tasks and projects set by them. It got me ready for where I wanted to go. I applied for work experience with Williams and was accepted.  After 3 months there, I got my ‘foot in the door’, building good relationships. At the end of my work experience, my head teacher got in touch with Williams, who offered me a four-year apprenticeship.”

Tiffany’s experience is typical of that of many UTCs students. Through close collaboration with employer and university partners, our leavers are very often at the ‘front of the queue’ for a popular university course, or for a competitive apprenticeship place.