Poor students at FE colleges find it more difficult to get into elite jobs and top universities than their counterparts in school sixth-forms, according to a report from the RSA.
Not enough capital? argues the sector is undermined by comparative under-funding, lack of policy attention and low status compared to higher education and school sixth-forms.
The report focuses on youngsters from low-income backgrounds and argues that they face cultural, financial and institutional barriers compared to young people from higher-income groups.
Not enough capital? also concludes that college students from low income backgrounds are more likely to draw on ‘rags to riches’ style success stories than ask their friends and family for support in securing a job.
The report shows how disadvantaged students consider using contacts to get ahead as ‘cheating’ and are more likely to take inspiration from stories in which people made their own success.
FE colleges could enhance their role in supporting disadvantaged young people into higher education and careers, the report says. It recommends a number of interventions aimed at helping young people in both education attainment and progression in the work place 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.
Commenting on the report, RSA Senior Researcher (and author of the report), Emma Norris said:
"FE colleges currently experience a range of institutional problems, from difficulties with careers advice to an image problem amongst prospective employers that can complicate their role in providing their students with the support and guidance they need."
"We found that this impacts students from low income backgrounds in particular – as they often lack the social networks and contacts to gain work experience and other valuable CV material. Their parents and role models are supportive but lack experience and knowledge about which courses will open doors in chosen careers."
The RSA is due to set up a new mentoring initiative between some of the society’s 27,000 fellows and FE colleges. In doing so, the project will provide fellows with an opportunity to use their valuable skills and experience in the interests of a younger generation, develop meaningful connections with young people and become advocates of the FE sector.