The Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) strategy was introduced by the Scottish Government in 2014 to prepare learners for future employment pathways and opportunities as they transition into the world of work. The Lines Between was commissioned to carry out research into the impact of implementation of the strategy, focusing on provision in schools through Broad General Education (BGE), and the Senior Phase of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). Key research tasks were to explore variance across implementation and to evidence the extent to which the DYW programme aims have been met, covering:
- the status of DYW and work-based learning in schools
- factors that encourage or hinder DYW implementation
- approaches to promoting DYW learning among young people
- the impact of DYW and work-based learning on young people.
This study took place during 2022 and featured interviews with 67 staff from a sample of 15 schools across Scotland, interviews with 14 national and local stakeholders; and an online survey of staff within schools that took part in the research to extend the reach of participation from the school sample and gain the perspectives of wider staff groups within each school. We highlight that the limited sample of 15 schools means that survey findings are not to be considered statistically significant and the qualitative data may not represent all schools' experiences.
The status of DYW and work-based learning in schools
Activities aligned to DYW include curricular activity; extra-curricular projects; careers-focused events; work experience placements; workplace visits/tasters; one-to-one support; and sharing work-based learning opportunities and job vacancies.
Different approaches to delivering DYW at the BGE and Senior Phases of the curriculum were identified. In BGE, there is an emphasis on raising awareness of different job roles and the skills and qualifications they require; DYW activity becomes more focused in the Senior Phase. By this time, young people are more likely to have identified career options they want to pursue so more personalised support is delivered to help achieve their aims. Schools that took part in the research all reported strong commitment to implementing DYW. However, there is some variation in the extent to which DYW and work-based learning opportunities have been embedded.
Factors that encourage or hinder DYW implementation
Five themes emerged in the analysis of factors which support DYW implementation within schools: staff and leadership; teamwork; monitoring, resources and funding; partnerships with employers and colleges; and parental and community involvement. Factors which discourage or prevent schools from embracing DYW and embedding work-based learning include: staff capacity, skills and funding; information management; geography and school type; pupil needs; and barriers to partnerships with employers and colleges.
DYW's impact on the learner journey spans how work-based learning is promoted to pupils; impacts for young people; and contribution to a reduction of workplace and educational inequalities. Many interviewees suggested the DYW strategy has led to greater efforts to share information about vocational learning opportunities with pupils in recent years. The main benefits for young people identified in the research include: access to a much broader range of work-based learning opportunities; presenting as more prepared for the world of work; improved prospects of achieving and sustaining positive destinations; and being more engaged with and invested in their own education.
Many felt that the implementation of the DYW strategy has helped young people to improve their chances of achieving and sustaining positive destinations, and exposure to different styles of learning has helped some pupils to improve their focus and engagement. DYW has also helped to address educational and workplace inequalities.
Conclusions and recommendations
This report provides evidence that, among schools which participated in the research, the aims of the DYW programme are being met. DYW has been embraced by schools, and this willingness stems from the positive impacts staff have seen for pupils and their belief that DYW improves pupils learning experiences while at school and enhances their future employment prospects.
Twenty learning points to inform future policy related to preparing young people for work were identified in the research, and five main recommendations are made:
1. For the Scottish Government to share this report with stakeholders, including schools across Scotland and the range of agencies and organisations that contribute to the implementation of DYW.
2. Working in partnership with COSLA and other key stakeholders, we recommend the Scottish Government develops policy responses which address the learning points set out in chapter 5 and considers whether additional or reallocation of existing resources is required to fund any policy measures.
3. To further embed work-based learning into the curriculum, we recommend the Scottish Government ensures that the principles of DYW are incorporated into curriculum design processes at a national, regional and individual school level.
4. To build on the strengths and successes identified in this research, we recommend that the flexibility inherent to DYW is maintained. This includes enabling schools to learn from one another through sharing examples of good practice, providing support for tailored work with individual pupils, and the capacity to respond to local labour market opportunities.
5. Finally, to provide a holistic understanding of the impact of DYW, we recommend that any wider evaluation of DYW includes research with pupils and parents/caregivers to understand their experiences and perspectives on the implementation and impact of DYW.
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