Major Partnership to Support Careers Education in the North East

22 July 2021

Trinity College and the Oxford University Careers Service have teamed up to improve educational and employment outcomes and boost the aspirations of young people across the North East of England. 

Working with the Department for Education’s Opportunity North East programme and the region’s two Local Enterprise Partnerships, Trinity and the Careers Service have launched a tool developed at Oxford to help school pupils make informed career choices. It also enables their teachers and schools give them tailored, practical help.

Litmus is a survey-based tool to collect information about students’ frame of mind about their career plans post-school, and about the industry sectors in which they are interested. It was developed by the Careers Service at Oxford to assess career readiness, industry interests and skills. It has already been adapted for schools and used by around 8,000 students nationally ranging in age from Year 5 to Year 13. 

Fifty schools have been invited to take part in the Litmus programme in the North East in conjunction with the Opportunity North East (ONE) programme, particularly the aspects of ONE that aim to support more young people to find a pathway to a good career, and to support more young people to progress to higher education, particularly to the top tier universities. At the end of the Summer term, 1,586 students across 31 state schools in the region have taken part, using a dedicated platform developed by Group GTI called TARGETconnect. 

The survey results provide a summary of each pupil’s careers readiness, their confidence in demonstrating key skills that employers will look for, and which industries they might be interested in. At a school level, it provides teachers with a summary of industry interests that can be used to arrange dedicated field trips, projects or guest speakers, and evidence of which employability skills could be discussed with pupils. 

Further analysis of pupils’ careers information with their demographic data can reveal important associations that in turn can inform education policy and approaches to providing targeted help. In the longer term, Litmus can be used to track the effectiveness of different careers interventions such as skills programmes, visits, classroom discussions, inspirational talks. This can be done at an individual school level, but can also be used at a regional or group of schools level. 

Jonathan Black, Director of Oxford University’s Careers Service, says: ‘The Careers Service at Oxford University has used the Litmus careers registration programme for six years to provide targeted information on specific industries to students who’ve expressed an interest, and to track career readiness of the entire student body. We have found this so useful in providing targeted information in a cost-effective way. 

‘We thought this same programme would be valuable to schools where careers education is of increasing importance and yet is not nearly so well-funded as at a university. From a pilot phase in 2018-19, which focused particularly on the North East and North West regions, we were struck by how useful participating schools were finding Litmus was in supporting schools careers education. We believe it can provide hard-pressed careers leads in schools with a tool to provide more focused information, to reassure concerned parents about the career choices their children are considering, and Senior Leadership Teams in schools with a way to set priorities for the careers programmes.

Richard Petty is Trinity’s Teacher Engagement and Access Officer based in the North East of England; he says: ‘At Oxford we are keen to work more with state schools. The Oxford for North East consortium of colleges is working very actively to encourage interested students in the region to consider Oxford for higher education, and we hope that supporting careers education in schools will complement that work. 

Litmus delivers to all learners, regardless of where they end up at 16 or 18 years of age. Some might view careers education as an area that Outreach needs not target; we think it can have a very meaningful impact on how the university is viewed, perhaps particularly in hard-to-reach areas. And as a leading Careers Service at a centre of excellence we think it’s important to share our Careers expertise with colleagues and students in our link region, and more widely.’