Improving the transition from school to work Contents

Appendix 6: Note of Committee visit to Derby: Tuesday 24 November 2015

On 24 November 2015 the Committee visited three sites in Derby:

The purpose of the visit was to explore the relationship between local schools and employers, and to assess how they were working together to meet the needs of people aged 14–24. The following members of the Committee attended: Baroness Blood, Baroness Corston (Chairman), Lord Farmer and Baroness Sharp of Guildford. The delegation was accompanied by three staff: Emily Greenwood, Luke Hussey, and Morgan Sim.

Session with students at Derby College

The Committee talked to local students at Derby College to learn about what careers guidance they had received; and explored the extent to which their aspirations were being met.

Options available after school

Some students said that they had always known what they wanted to do. Others still had no idea and some described themselves as ‘lucky’ to have been given advice or experienced something that had given them an idea. Some had discovered that they enjoyed courses, for example in computing, only after having chosen their options. Others had found the option to study something vocational and industry-related, for example in construction, a life-changing experience. It was thought to be possible to get good apprenticeships if the student was willing to put the time and effort into applying.

Some students reported pressure from their school to stay on in sixth form. Others expressed concern at the lack of understanding of students with caring responsibilities or mental health problems. When assessing work options, the need to travel significant distances posed problems.

Support and guidance

Some students felt well supported in making decisions and some said that they had received little guidance. It was generally felt that careers advice in schools was lower level and more basic. Others commented that careers guidance was given in PHSE lessons, in a group, which meant it was not taken seriously and was of little use. One-to-one advice was only given if people had a difficulty in deciding what they wanted to do. It was delivered on a voluntary basis, with the onus on the student to make an appointment. There was a general sense that the College had been more proactive than schools in encouraging students to engage with careers tutors.

Work experience

Students in both groups recognised that work experience helped to get into a work environment and the local labour market. They said it helped them get to grips with work and added to their CVs. Work experience was important to show aptitude for specific industries. Those studying A-Levels said that they had to find their own work experience. One student in particular struggled to find relevant work experience and eventually his father found a placement for him.

The students thought that the skills sought by employers depended on the type of job. Factors identified included a positive attitude and a work ethic, knowledge and competence in the relevant area including technical skills. Other skills, including communication, punctuality and team working were also important.

The International Centre for Guidance Studies, University of Derby

The Committee met staff at the International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS), an applied research centre that specialises in career guidance, career development and employability skills, based at the University of Derby.566

The Committee discussed the role of career guidance in supporting social mobility. In a recent study for the Sutton Trust567, iCeGS undertook detailed case-study work with 14 schools which held a Quality Award568 with the aim of defining the necessary ingredients for effective career guidance.

Careers Guidance

People needed access to careers guidance throughout their lives. The transition from school to work had lengthened and continued to lengthen. There were now a number of different pathways, and while this was not unique to the United Kingdom, many people would not start their careers until their early twenties. It was considered that entitlement to support was unclear.

Since the 1980s, there had been lots of different initiatives and schemes, with very little coordination. Schools could approach a number of organisations for support, such as STEMNET, Careers and Enterprise Company. Ideally there should be two levels to good careers guidance: something outside of schools that brokered links with employers and the local labour market, and something inside schools and colleges so that pupils were learning about work at the same time as studying. Schools needed to have people at their disposal who were plugged into the local labour market.

It was noted that there was a very weak requirement on schools to deliver work experience. The views of the head teacher were seen as important in determining how much a school invested in careers guidance and who was responsible for its delivery. Its delivery was very fragmented, with many organisations trying to get into schools; it was confusing for schools and employers. Practice between different institutions varied greatly and it was considered that increasing competition between schools and colleges for funding had reduced collaboration between them.

It was noted that there was no single agency with responsibility for ensuring that schools delivered a good quality of careers guidance. It was a relatively small part of the inspection framework. Although there were a variety of forms of support, there was not much of a ‘trigger point’ for the school becoming aware that what it was doing was not good enough. If a school had disengaged or was doing the bare minimum, there was no one to pick it up in a regulatory role.

Work experience

The work experience offer was considered to be weak, it was noted that statutory responsibility for schools to provide work experience was removed in 2012. Providing good work experience was difficult for schools without a tradition of working with employers. Responsibility tended to be placed on individuals and their families; some schools framed their offer of help as being available to students only if they cannot find anything themselves.

If schools were required to put more information in the public domain, employers would more easily be able to find out who to speak to. Kent had a good brokerage system, which sat between business and education.


Whilst destinations data was useful for schools and parents to understand where students went, iCeGS stressed that caution should be exercised in using it as a sole metric as there were a number of contextual factors that could lead someone to be successful in workplace. It should form part of a “basket of measures rather than whole measure”.


Some apprenticeships had clear progression through the apprenticeship programme. There was probably insufficient research around apprenticeships in terms of their relationship to career development and the opportunities they offered when compared to university route.

The six week apprenticeship had become less common. The Richard Review was seen as critical in moving apprenticeship standards on. Length was not the only issue but was important. It was considered that the one year rule was a good step forward.


The current funding structure was confusing for schools. The Careers and Enterprise Company had a significant pot of funding and may have innovative ways of working with young people. The current funding structure prioritised links between schools and business, but was not coordinated in a logical way.


The Committee then visited the Rolls-Royce Learning and Development Centre in Derby.

Following a short presentation, members engaged in a round table discussion with apprentices, graduates, and senior staff at Rolls-Royce.

Applied learning

Some apprentices said that they had opted for the scheme at Rolls Royce because they preferred an applied learning approach. One said that he could have gone to university to learn the theoretical background to the work but that he preferred to see it first-hand. He thought about both routes and where he would be in four years’ time. The apprenticeship scheme would give him four years’ experience in a prestigious company. He said that the induction was difficult and challenging, and that the scheme was really competitive to get on.

Another apprentice began working at Rolls-Royce whilst on day release at school in years 10 and 11. He came into Rolls-Royce every Wednesday for two years. Another said that she felt that she was lucky that her school was involved in engineering apprenticeship scheme where she paired with local company for 6–9 months looking into real life project.

Another apprentice came in with not as many GCSEs as the rest–he had 4 at C or above, including Maths and English. He came in at 24, having worked around getting into engineering. He said that he was taken on due to his experience and willingness. As part of the recruitment process, he had to pass the online maths exam before he could progress to the next stage of interviews.

Gender balance

One apprentice had wanted to do an apprenticeship in chemistry with the specialist science team. She said that there were few females on the shop floor, but that she was not treated any differently from the males. She had been the only female out of 50 or 60 in her intake. It was noted that on average the workforce was 13–15 percent female across Rolls Royce but that across the engineering sector as a whole there were fewer than 10 per cent.

One way to address the challenge of attracting more females and minority groups was to promote role models. Whilst 27 per cent of STEM ambassadors were female, 30 out of 60 Rolls-Royce Ambassadors were female. Gender was key but Rolls-Royce also sought to make engineering more approachable for underrepresented groups, for example lower socio economic groups. Rolls-Royce work actively with Teach First and through the U.K. Science prize reached 2000 schools per year. Rolls-Royce employees delivered the equivalent of 60 full time roles in schools. He said that this was not necessarily about promoting Rolls-Royce, but about the sector.

Joining the scheme

One apprentice found the pre-internship to be particularly useful him. He said that it gave him an insight into what engineering really involved. He said that coming into working environment and being treated like an adult, gave him self-confidence. He found that it helped or at least didn’t affect his performance in other subjects at school. He put in extra hours in to cover anything he might have missed.

Another apprentice was not actively encouraged at school to do apprenticeship. She said that if they had known, some of her friends would have done one as well. Some of her peers were pushed along the university route.

566 The Committee met Prof Tristram Hooley (Head of iCeGS), Dr Siobhan Neary (Deputy Head of iCeGS), Jane Artess (Principal Researcher), Dr Claire Shepherd (Researcher), and Professor Kathryn Mitchell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Derby.

567 Tristram Hooley., Jesse Matheson and A.G Watts, Advancing ambitions: the role of career guidance in supporting social mobility, (London: The Sutton Trust, October 2014): [accessed 22 March 2016]

568 Schools which have been assessed by an external organisation as meeting a certain minimum standard of careers guidance. The delegation heard that approximately 25 per cent of schools held some form of award.

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