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Using labour market intelligence to make better career decisions

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One of What Works Growth’s main aims is to help policymakers understand the evidence on what works in local economic growth. We believe good evidence is essential to good decision-making. This principle isn’t unique to local economic growth – what works centres in other policy areas such as education, crime, health and wellbeing fulfil a similar role – and it is also true for the decisions we make as individuals.

Why is labour market intelligence important?

One of the most important decisions is about the careers we wish to pursue. This raises an interesting question about what information individuals use to make these career decisions.

All of us have information about the labour market. For example, we know what jobs family members, friends and those in our wider communities do and people tell us stories about those jobs – good and bad! We also encounter different types of jobs through TV, films, games, print and social media.

Unfortunately, the labour market is diverse and complex – so relying on just the experience of those close to you or what is portrayed in the media gives a partial view of the careers available, what they involve, and how to access them.

This is why labour market intelligence (LMI) – the provision of data on the labour market – is so important. LMI helps make sense of the labour market so we can make better decisions about our careers. And as key career decisions are made when we are young it’s particularly important to expose young people to this kind of information.

How can we make best use of labour market intelligence?

National Careers Week took place at the beginning of March, and one of the most inspiring parts of its launch event was hearing young people talking about what they learnt from LMI. None of them recited statistics about sectoral shares or pay – but it was clear they better understood their options, and how these aligned with their interests and preferences. LMI also seemed to have given them a degree of confidence about their future.

This is because LMI can open-up the conversations we have with young people about the labour market. For example, a discussion about which sectors employ the most people can be used to explore key concepts (what is the difference between a sector and an occupation), illustrate the breadth of jobs available in that sector, and discuss how jobs will change over time.

Once young people have this broader understanding, they can return to the data to help them choose between careers and find the best route into their chosen option.

Improving LMI and the evidence on what works

It’s important that we continue to improve LMI. The labour market is constantly changing, and new data sources and ways of presenting information emerging. National Careers Week provides an important opportunity for careers leaders to stay on top of what’s available and to share their experiences of using LMI.

As a what works centre, we also think it’s important that we develop our understanding of ‘what works’ in LMI. The Education Endowment Foundation looked at the evidence on careers education in 2016 and two-thirds of the studies they reviewed found careers education had positive impacts on economic outcomes such as wages. However, very few studies looked at the impact of LMI.

There will be more and less effective ways to communicate LMI to young people, and it would be good to test this through trials. What Works Growth doesn’t work in schools, but if you are involved in post-16 careers provision and you have an idea you would like to test, we could potentially offer support. Please get in touch with the What Works Growth team if you have an idea you would like to discuss.