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Now is a good time to think about learning, life skills and progression amongst our young people. But some young people find it harder to progress in education and careers than others, according to a new RSA report released today.

Now is a good time to think about learning, life skills and progression amongst our young people. But some young people find it harder to progress in education and careers than others, according to a new RSA report released today.

FE students from low-income backgrounds find it more difficult to progress into higher education and careers than affluent young people, according to a new RSA report published today. Not Enough Capital investigates why some students are more likely than others to thrive in education and the workplace, and what organisations such as the RSA can do to help disadvantaged students.

The report reiterates the findings of previous studies on educational inequalities, showing that disadvantage is a complex mixture of financial and social factors. Poverty and debt aversion makes further education a struggle and higher education financially intimidating. This will only worsen as top-up fees increase. The report also demonstrates the significance of other social disadvantages, including a lack of experience and relevant networks, low confidence and patchy access to high-quality careers advice. Young people from low-income backgrounds are disadvantaged by their lack of experience of educational or professional environments, as well as by their lack of social capital.

The young people that feature in the report discuss how difficult they find it to navigate education and career choices. They lack the social capital (e.g. networks and contacts) to gain work experience and other valuable CV material. Their parents and role models are, on the whole, supportive, but they lack experience and knowledge about which courses will open doors in chosen careers. As one practitioner put it, “parents from certain backgrounds have a better understanding of how the system works”. The report also reveals that many young people from low-income families do not feel comfortable using cultural and social capital to further their own ends. They want to achieve success without help from others, which may compound their disadvantage. One London-based FE student said: “I want to be able to hold my head up and say, ‘I’ve found my own way here... and it’s not through people that I know.’”

However, FE colleges can enhance their role in supporting disadvantaged young people into higher education and fulfilling careers. The report recommends a number of interventions to this end, including:

  • Partnering civil society organisations with FE colleges to provide students with bespoke career advice and mentoring opportunities.
  • Ensuring that the All Age Careers Service due to be launched in 2012 makes specific provision for FE colleges
  • Making sure information about financial and hardship support is made available to FE students at the earliest opportunity;
  • Building stronger relationships between the FE sector and local/national employers to ensure courses and students meet the needs of industry.
You can read the full report here.

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