Education and the path to employment

Education, from early years, through to further and higher education, plays a key role in a person’s employment and labour market outcomes.

Our research and consultancy spans compulsory and pre-16 education to post-16 choices, including apprenticeships, technical education, and higher education for young people and adults.

We summarise knowledge and good practice, evaluate interventions, and advise policymakers, whilst exploring specific issues, including social equity and mobility. Our studies frequently involve gathering the views of pupils, learners and students, providers and employers, as well as comparing national and international approaches and their impact.

Download this graphic for an overview of IES research projects spanning pre-16 education to post-16 choices, including apprenticeships, technical education, and higher education for young people and adults. 

Our work in this area


Apprenticeships have been subject to intense policy interest over time with a particular focus on increasing the number and quality of apprenticeships. 

We have a strong track record of research on apprenticeships, having led the evaluation of the earliest Trailblazer networks and having contributed to the evaluation of the apprenticeship grant for employers. We have explored apprenticeships from the perspective of equality and diversity and the under-representation by ethnicity, gender and disability, whilst providing analysis to contribute to international reviews of apprenticeship models and outcomes.

Contact: Becci Newton

Further and technical education

Our research covers post-16 education transitions and decisions to pursue the academic route (A-Levels) or further education and vocational qualifications. This education phase also provides second chances: for adults from basic/entry levels to continuing professional development using vocational routes; and for learners aged 16-18 who require qualifications from entry level to GCSE (and equivalent) and beyond into courses focused more specifically on the occupational and technical skills that employers require.

‘T-Levels’ are a new vocational qualification in the UK, aimed at improving provision, moving it closer to employer skills demands and better preparing learners for the labour market, or to transition to higher education. We have contributed to the T-Levels' development through an evaluation of the pilot work placements which form an integral part of T-Level strategy. Other recent studies include our review of effective curriculum for 'Below Level 2' learners (who will require the new T-Level transition year), a review of Adult Funding, and a study into social mobility resulting from further education participation.

Contact: Joy Williams

Pre-16 education

Even before children start school, they are developing literacy and numeracy skills which prepare them for their education and career ahead. Pre-16 education in the UK encompasses everything from the early years through to Year 11 and closely overlaps our other work areas, such as careers education and apprenticeships and technical education. IES is building a programme of research in pre-16 education and has worked for clients such as the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network (STEMNET), the Education Endowment Foundation the Careers & Enterprise Company. 

Contact: Anneka Dawson

Schools and colleges workforce

Recruiting the right teachers and retaining them in schools and colleges is crucial to the education landscape, as the government recognises that good quality teaching is one of the best ways to improve educational outcomes for young people.

IES has a long history of examining the schools and colleges workforces and issues that affect them, such as working conditions, training, diversity and pay. Sitting within the broader framework of employment expertise that we offer, this work also recognises the unique challenges at play with the schools and colleges workforce, where, for example, we find some of the longest working hours of any profession.

Contact: Emma Pollard

Second chances

Not all people achieve their full potential when in full-time education or training. There are adults currently in work who do not possess the qualifications now expected for job entry (eg 5 high-quality GCSEs). People feel ready to return to education at different times in their lives, for different reasons, and some may wish to enter work before they consider undertaking any other education or training.

We explore adult skills and evaluate programmes and interventions that aim to provide opportunities for people to gain the foundation and intermediate skills to enable them to progress and advance in the workplace. This includes the evaluation of the Train to Gain Learner Experience, as well as a detailed insight study into adult decision-making about training and development.

Contact: Becci Newton

Transitions from education to employment

The means through which young people make the transition from school to work or further study, and how successfully they make it, can have a major effect on their lifetime potential. Their choices and the ways in which these can be influenced can help shape a more productive and equal society.

We have a considerable track record in researching the factors and policy interventions that influence these transitions and engagement in the labour market. We have also completed studies into how young people can develop employability skills and attributes in education settings that will help their future transitions, whilst contributing to international analyses on these themes.

Contact: Becci Newton

IES experts

Becci Newton

Emma Pollard

Anneka Dawson

Becci Newton
Director, Public Policy Research
Emma Pollard
Principal Research Fellow
Anneka Dawson
Principal Research Fellow

Related projects

Involving young people in volunteering: careers research review
The Careers & Enterprise Company

Evaluation of the new Jobcentre Plus approach to providing support for 16-17 year olds
Department for Work and Pensions

Research into tackling unemployment among disadvantaged young people

Evaluation of the Apprenticeships Trailblazers
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

The impact of STEMNET’s programmes on young people’s employability skills

Early Years Toolbox Evaluation
Education Endowment Foundation

Supporting the foundations of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths)
Mercers Company

Language in the Early Years
Sutton Trust 

Direct Mapping and Set-For-Variability 
Education Endowement Foundation (EEF)

Early Years Monitoring and Evaluation 
The OVO Foundation

Tips by Text 
Education Endowement Foundation (EEF)