I visited Ottawa a few years ago to present key findings from the UK ‘LMI for All’ initiative to Deputy Ministers from across Canada. The meeting was organised by the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRCD) and we also talked about international developments in career education, including emerging findings from quasi-experimental and experimental studies – https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/public/files/Publications/Careers_review.pdf
Yesterday, I received a copy of the SRDC’s latest randomised control trial (RCT) report, published by The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, co-authored by Taylor Shek-wai Hui and Reuben Ford – http://www.heqco.ca/en-ca/Research/ResPub/Pages/Education-and-Labour-Market-Impacts-of-the-Future-to-Discover-Project.aspx
Here’s a link to the Executive Summary Report – http://www.heqco.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/Formatted_FTD%20Long-term%20Impacts%20Summary_REVISED.pdf
What is Future to Discover?
Future to Discover (FTD) is a pilot project involving a sample of 5,429 Grade 9 students originally drawn from 51 high schools in Manitoba and New Brunswick. It tests the effectiveness of two interventions designed to help students overcome barriers to Post Secondary Education (PSE), namely lack of career clarity, misinformation about PSE and lack of financial resources. This report presents the impacts on PSE and labour market experiences of offering the interventions to youth.
The two interventions were:
Explore Your Horizons (EYH), which offered students enhanced career planning and better information about the costs and benefits of postsecondary programs from early on in their high school years. It equally encouraged pursuit of programs in apprenticeship, private vocational institutes, community college and university. It was implemented between 2004 and 2008 while project participants were still in high school.
Learning Accounts (LA), which promised during the early years of high school up to $8,000 of non-repayable financial aid to students from lower-income families should they go on to pursue Post Secondary Education. Deposits into the accounts accumulated between 2004 and 2008 while project participants were still in high school. Payments to participants who made the transition to postsecondary studies were made between 2007 and 2011. Manitoba did not participate in LA. The FTD project set out to test whether these interventions, offered either separately or in combination (EYH+LA), would increase high school students’ chances of enrolling in PSE. While various programs offer information and financial assistance relating to PSE, FTD is distinct in its relatively early promise of assistance and in its design targeting those who are traditionally least likely to attend PSE.
A major conclusions worth highlighting from the ‘Future To Discover’ randomised control trial (RCT)
Both career education and early-promise grants can work to increase postsecondary access and that when such interventions do increase access there are likely substantial returns to the education they cause. The endeavour to increase access for students who do not currently attend is worthwhile. One of the two important caveats from the project is that enhancing career education will not be equivalently successful in different settings.
Implications for Policy and Practice
- FTD’s results provide compelling evidence to support future education policies and community initiatives that aim to find ways to support students in having equitable access to Post Secondary Eduation (PSE) in order “to fulfill their dreams, achieve their potential and thrive in the global knowledge economy” (Ontario, 2017). The project also provides insights on how to effectively engage young people, how best to implement new programs and on the conditions that are more likely to lead to success. FTD provides a clear and compelling case both that postsecondary access can be increased for those groups of students currently least likely to attend PSE and that the additional PSE will benefit them
- Effective programming to increase PSE access can not only help fulfil policy goals focused on improving equity between young people, but also offer a long-term business case for government investment.
- As an experiment, FTD did not fully exploit the means available to policy makers and practitioners to maximize the impacts of its interventions. Bringing enhanced career education into mandatory classes and making early-promise grants a part of the student financial-aid system seems likely to increase their impact and effectiveness.
- Within broadly defined PSE access objectives, relatively modest but different interventions can direct students to very different pathways. Program designers should carefully consider their target group’s current educational programming context and resulting pathways alongside their overall program intent as youth are very sensitive to small but timely nudges when it comes to their postsecondary decisions. A rigorous evaluation framework is critical to understanding the effects of new programming.
- The potential of PSE to transform individuals’ lives and the broader economy should not be underestimated.