How schools can better prepare young people for working life in the
era of COVID-19
The focus of this working paper is on how secondary schools can optimise young people’s preparation for adult employment at a time of extreme labour market turbulence. By reviewing academic analysis of national longitudinal datasets, it is possible to identify indicators of comparative adult success. How teenagers (i) think about their futures in work and what they do to (ii) explore and (iii) experience workplaces within and outside of schools is consistently associated with better than expected employment outcomes in adulthood. Data-driven career guidance will take such indicators into account within delivery. Analysis of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018 illustrates substantial variation in the extent of such career readiness between and within countries. Variation in career readiness is particularly associated with disadvantage. More effective education systems will ensure schools systematically address inequalities in teenage access to information and support in preparing for working life.
Young people suffer disproportionately in any recession and that initiated by the COVID- 19 pandemic promises to be no exception. Lacking useful work experience, information and contacts, young people struggle to compete for available employment. Analysis of national longitudinal data shows however, that reliable indicators exist of young people’s career readiness: better than anticipated adult employment outcomes are statistically connected to (i) what teenagers think about their futures in work, (ii) the extent to which they explore potential futures, and (iii) whether they gain workplace experience while still in school. Collectively, such data-driven indicators reveal greater student agency in approaching school-to-work transitions.