WHAT IS YOUNG LIVES, YOUNG FUTURES?

Young Lives, Young Futures, or more fully, ‘Opportunity, equality and agency in England’s new VET landscape: a longitudinal study of post-16 transitions’, is a five year ESRC-funded collaborative project between King’s College London and The Edge Foundation investigating how England’s vocational education and training (VET) system can better support the school-to-work transitions of the 50 per cent of young people who don’t go to university.

WHY ARE WE DOING THIS RESEARCH?

Routes into further education, training and employment can often be complex, unstable and uncertain. In England, there is growing concern about the disparities in education and skills levels that can prevent those from disadvantaged regions, women, and black, minority ethnic and disabled young people from accessing high-skilled employment. The project will provide new understandings of how these disparities are produced and how they might be reduced for young people not going to university in different areas of England.

HOW ARE WE DOING THIS RESEARCH?

The research team will use a combination of different methods across the life of the project to capture and reflect the diverse range of opportunity structures, policy environments and socioeconomic contexts navigated by young people across England and how these may affect their school-to-work transitions.

 

  • Through a combination of national-level statistical analysis of student destinations and a longitudinal survey young people, the project will compare the opportunities available to young people living in different places and the resources they are able to draw on to help them make meaningful career and employment choices. Please click here for more information about the project's survey.

 

  • 500 in-depth interviews with policy makers, practitioners, young people and their parents/carers in four contrasting areas will provide more detailed insights into who is getting access to which opportunities, what young people value, how they exercise their agency, their experiences of navigating a transitions landscape in which they are differently resourced and positioned, and the implications of all of this for equality, policy and professional practice.

WHO ARE WE DOING THIS RESEARCH WITH?

The project focuses on the 15-20 age group and has a particular emphasis on engaging with the perspectives of young people themselves, including those who are more marginalised and whose voices are often not heard in policymaking. Interviews will also be conducted with the parents/carers of young people and with policy makers and practitioners active in the four different areas of England.

WHAT DO WE HOPE TO GET OUT OF THIS RESEARCH?

The research is guided by the principle that, to make school-to-work transitions more equitable, we need to fully engage with:

  • Different dimensions of equality and the challenges of realising equality in practice

  • Combinations of different kinds of advantages and disadvantages experienced by young people across England

  • How the range of possible opportunities open to different young people interacts with their life experiences, values and agency.

 

By helping policymakers develop greater insight into young people’s lives, and supporting reflection on how the tensions between different dimensions of inequality can best be managed, the research will help ensure that policy is more sensitive to the complexity of both young people’s experiences and inequality; and hence more successful in creating more navigable and equitable school-to-work transitions for young people not taking the university route.

 

The research team will also engage closely with practitioners working in vocational education and training, other organisations that play a role in supporting young people and grant-making organisations. These engagements will be focused on:

 

  • Helping to improve support for learners in schools and colleges

  • The career development and learning of young people in the workplace

  • Careers guidance and transitions support for those not in formal education or, for other reasons, unlikely to engage with school or college-based advice

  • Building capacity in the effective use of research to inform policy and practice development

  • Providing evidence of the kinds of initiatives young people experience as most effective

 

In addition, we will work collaboratively with groups of young people to help them reflect on their transitions, increase awareness of effective strategies for navigating transitions and support the development of their advocacy skills.