Broadening horizons: how can we help young people make better decisions about their future learning and careers?

By Chris Edwards, Head of UK Partnerships, Unifrog

At Unifrog, we’re dedicated to helping students—particularly those in disadvantaged areas—make better decisions about their future learning and careers. In the post-pandemic world, it’s more important than ever for students to be well informed about their careers and next steps.

The cost-of-living crisis and the challenging global economy following the pandemic will directly affect young people’s choices about their future careers and next steps, so it’s more important than ever for students to be well informed. We’re already seeing how this is affecting students’ university research where they’re comparing fees and graduate salaries over historically more popular characteristics, like social life ranking.

Our most recent study compared the shortlisting activity of Key Stage 5 students in the least and most disadvantaged areas of the UK. We found that there is a 9.2% gap between the shortlisting rates of advantaged students (living in Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) 4-10) and disadvantaged students (living in IMD 1-3).

What is ‘shortlisting’ and what does the gap mean?
Some of the most used parts of the platform are our shortlisting tools. These tools allow students to compare apprenticeship vacancies, courses at FE colleges, and courses at universities in the UK or overseas. The end result is a shortlist they’ve created with information on entry requirements, finances, disability support, and more. And they can revisit all their shortlists to support them in making their applications. 

We recognise that students from a disadvantaged background have fewer connections to rely on when making their post-16 or post-18 choices. To support these students in creating their network and bridging the gap between school and their next steps, Unifrog now partners with employers and universities. When students shortlist opportunities with our partner organisations, they can reach out directly to admissions and recruitment teams via our unique ‘put me in touch’ buttons on their shortlists for advice and guidance.

However, the 9.2% shortlisting gap indicates that disadvantaged students aren’t completing as many shortlists as their more advantaged peers and are therefore missing out on these connections. 

To help narrow this gap, we recommend encouraging students to create multiple apprenticeship and university shortlists. This broadens students’ horizons leading to more informed choices, and allows them to build connections with employers and universities. We also recommend delivering careers lessons across all year groups to ensure students are aware of the changing labour market and the impact this may have on their future choices. To support our partner schools with this, Unifrog has created plug-and-play teaching resources so school staff can easily deliver careers topics without adding to their workload.

What is the impact of not creating shortlists?
The courses and vacancies that students save on their Unifrog shortlists — along with the careers, subjects, and articles they ‘favourite’ — populate a feed of relevant opportunities from universities and employers to support them in making their applications. For example, a student who shortlists a degree apprenticeship might be signposted to a webinar or careers fair featuring the related employer. They’ll then have the opportunity to interact directly with the employer and ask their own questions, get more information on what it means to work there, plus tips for applying. 

Creating shortlists gives students more ownership of their decisions, so they feel empowered to explore their full range of options and to interact with the universities and employers who can help them get where they want to go.

How is Unifrog closing the shortlisting gap?
We empower teachers and careers advisers to use Unifrog in the best way for their school. Our shortlisting tool also has a tracking function for teachers to spot which students have and haven’t made shortlists yet so that they can support students to find their best next steps as quickly as possible.

We work closely with our partner schools to help teachers and careers advisers make the most out of our research to better support their students.

We’ve created a four-step guide for schools to help close the gap:
  1. Identify students from disadvantaged backgrounds early, provide comprehensive and aspirational guidance, and track their progress.
  2. Start talking about all pathways from KS3 and include relevant careers support across the curriculum.
  3. Engage with widening participation teams at local unis to deliver sessions to inspire students and highlight available support.
  4. Provide more information to both students and parents/carers on bursaries, scholarships, contextual offers, and apprenticeships.

We enable our community to follow this guidance with outstanding strategic support from our dedicated team who work with each school to understand their CEIAG goals and maximise their use of the platform.

Together, Unifrog and schools can help students find the best possible opportunity for them, whatever that looks like.

Chris Edwards is Head of UK Partnerships at Unifrog
Unifrog is an ASCL Premier Partner and a main sponsor of ASCL Annual Conference 2023. Join Charley Fowler, Area Manager and UK Education Lead at Unifrog for her workshop Closing the Disadvantage Gap: Key actions to support students in finding their next best step at 2.30pm on Friday 10 March
Posted: 22/02/2023 08:55:18