Worktree contributes research on ‘meaningfulness’ of employer encounters

Worktree’s Tom Bulman presented a research paper at the 5th International Conference on Employer Engagement in Education and Training in London on 5th July 2018.  Two Year 10 students from Lord Grey School ran the slide presentation and gave testimony of their experiences in careers events.  They had participated in the research along with 82 Year 8-12 students from four MK schools and careers practitioners from eight MK schools.

The government’s new Careers Strategy, launched in December 2017, requires all students aged 11-18 to experience each year at least one ‘meaningful’ employer encounter.  But nowhere is ‘meaningfulness’ clearly defined and little is known about the relative effectiveness, let alone cost effectiveness, of different employer encounter types.  Worktree wants to understand its own ‘Career WorkOut’ carousel measures up in meaningfulness.

The Worktree research paper, ‘‘Measuring the meaningfulness of brief employer encounters’, compares the meaningfulness of three different types of employer encounters:  careers carousel (Career WorkOut), careers fair and careers talk.  The study tested a hypothetical measure of meaningfulness, based simply on the volume and intensity of employer/ee interactions, against actual ratings of meaningfulness by practitioners and students across the three careers event types.  How much more meaningful per student is it for a small group of 4-5 students to meet and interview 7-8 employer/ees in a carousel of 6-minute conversations (volume 7-8 x intensity 6/4.5 = 10) than a hall of 100 students to hear 1 employer speak for 60 mins (volume 1 x intensity 60/100 = 0.60)?

In this study, the hypothetical measure and actual ratings of practitioners and students all showed career carousels to be more meaningful than the other two event types (consistent with the findings of a recent report, ‘Careers events, What works?’, from the Education and Employers Research Centre) and careers talks to be least meaningful.

The study concludes that, although the relationship between hypothetical and actual was not consistently proportional across all event types, the volume and intensity of employer interactions are helpful predictors of meaningfulness as they predict both practitioners’ and students’ perception that careers carousels are more meaningful than careers fairs, and careers fairs are more meaningful than careers talks.

The study is not academically robust because of its small sample, lack of controls for students of different age, attainment level and socio-economic background, and its research leadership by Worktree, which has a clear interest in promoting the careers carousel model.

But the study does introduce an experimental research design, intended to identify optimal intervention approaches, and hopefully stimulates further research by the academic community to examine the importance to meaningfulness of how many employers/ees students have conversations with and the intensity or ‘closeness’ of those conversations.