The education landscape

An overview for employers



Collaborating with education and training to benefit your business
When it comes to planning the growth and longevity of your business, there are real benefits to engaging with the education and training landscape. However, finding the right opportunities can feel complex and time-consuming. Navigating the Education Landscape is designed to help businesses with these choices.

Getting involved now
Technical education is undergoing substantial reform to meet the skills needs of businesses. Employers are at the heart of shaping new apprenticeships and qualifications – both T Levels and Higher Technical Qualifications – that equip individuals with the knowledge and skills that are needed in the workplace. Working with education and training now can bring real benefits to your business.

The benefits
Partnering with education and training helps you to grow the resilience of your business in a changing economic and technological landscape – as well as ‘giving back’ to schools and colleges in your local community.

Navigating the Education Landscape is a clear guide to the education system, and the different opportunities for you to contribute and benefit. The resources describe the commitment level and benefits you can expect in return from each of these opportunities to help you identify the best fit for your business. These tools are designed for you to use today and in the future.

Explore the website to discover the best ways to get involved.  

Understanding the education & training system in England

There are plenty of opportunities for employers to get involved at all stages of the education process. The starting point is understanding the system.


Age 18+

Higher Education

  • Colleges
  • Universities
  • Training companies
  • Employers

Higher education (HE) is education and training that is at a standard beyond that of A Levels and other Level 3 qualifications (including technical courses in a wide range of fields). HE programmes are often offered by universities or colleges, and vary in size and type, including apprenticeships, higher technical qualifications (at Levels 4 and 5, eg HNC/HND), Foundation Degrees, undergraduate degrees (Level 6), and postgraduate courses (Level 7 and above). Many adults also continue to improve their skills by studying Further Education courses – from basic skills to technical courses (FE for 19+).

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Age 16–19
Key stage Five

Upper Secondary

Further Education for 16+

  • Colleges
  • School sixth-forms
  • Training companies
  • Employers

Education or training is compulsory until the age of 18 in England. After age 16 young people may undertake a full-time course* at college or school sixth-form, or start an apprenticeship or traineeship. They can also combine work or volunteering with part- time study or training. This phase of education, between 16–19, may be called Upper Secondary, and is part of further education (FE) in England. FE is a general term that covers all education and training after the age of 16 that is not higher education (HE). FE is offered by colleges, schools with sixth-forms, and a range of other institutions – including charities, commercial training companies, and employers.

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Age 11–14
Key stage Three
Age 14–16
Key stage Four

Secondary Education

  • Secondary schools

Secondary education starts at age 11–14 (Key stage Three). There are national tests (SATs) at age 14. Secondary education continues until age 16 – students are usually studying GCSE courses, and/or other courses as appropriate (eg a vocational qualification).

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Age 5–7
Key stage One
Age 7–11
Key stage Two

Primary Education

  • Primary schools

Primary education covers nursery (under age 5), infant (age 5 to 7 or 8) known as Key stage One, and junior (up to age 11) or Key stage Two. Primary schools generally have pupils aged 4–11 years. There are national tests (known as SATs) at the end of both Key stage One and Two. Government has set out a national curriculum for all subjects across Key stages One to Four. Children move to secondary school at age 11.

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From age 0
To age 5

Early Years

  • Nurseries
  • Primary schools

Early Years education takes place from age 3 in state nursery schools, nursery classes and reception classes within primary schools, but also in voluntary pre-schools, privately run nurseries and with childminders. Government sets standards for learning, development and care of young children to age 5 in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework.

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* Including supported programmes in the classroom and work place

Benefits for your business

Working with education institutions brings real benefit to your business, your employees and to your community.

Being part of your local community

Working with your local education institutions – schools, colleges, training providers and universities – can contribute to your organisation’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes. Your real-world input brings the curriculum to life and gives learning a concrete focus. It’s also a great opportunity to inspire, inform and help young people consider careers and roles that may be open to them – which is good for them, and for the community.

Additional resource

Offering an extended industry placement or internship for an older student brings motivated new members to your team. Students and volunteers will quickly acquire new knowledge and skills and make a real contribution to support your staff as they continue to learn.

Staff development

Getting your employees involved in education engagement activities shows that you are confident in their ability to represent the organisation. It also enables them to develop important skills, such as communication, leadership and management, which will support their continuing professional development and career progression – and strengthen their loyalty to your company.

Talent spotting

Collaborating with education institutions for older students can provide opportunities to identify potential employees who are a good fit with your organisation in the medium-term, reducing expensive and time-consuming recruitment activity and supporting your succession planning.

Building partnerships

Connecting with education institutions will give them a broader insight into industry needs and enable you to influence strategies for education and training in your locality. Collaboration also raises awareness of your organisation and brand and demonstrates the wider contribution you make to the community. There are also opportunities to build partnerships with other businesses involved in education initiatives.

Different perspective

Young people do not know how things have always been done in your organisation. They see things differently and can have innovative ideas and new approaches to problem solving. They may be more aware of emerging trends which can bring a new dimension to your business. Working with young people can inform your work, as well as being rewarding and inspiring. Engaging with young people while they are in education may help you build the diversity of your workforce.

Getting involved

There are lots of ways that you may be asked to get involved in helping young people understand the workplace, the opportunities available to them, and make a successful transition from education into the workplace.

Supporting students

Your future workforce is currently in education. Sharing your knowledge, experience and advice will inspire and inform their educational choices – helping them to develop the confidence to move into a role that is right for them – and be the right employee for you. Opportunities include helping with competitions (eg as a judge or team mentor), giving careers talk, participating in a careers fair, or providing one-to-one mentoring on a longer term basis.

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Supporting high quality teaching

Your input will ensure that teachers can share essential and up to date knowledge and skills in their lessons. You could help design a course or support a student project, give teachers the opportunity to find out about current industry practice by hosting a site visit, give a masterclass for a group of teachers, or even donate some equipment or workshop time.

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Providing workplace experience

Nothing beats hands-on experience for gaining an insight into working life. Opening your doors to young people is an opportunity to raise awareness and understanding of your organisation and industry, and help students transition into the workplace. And, if they enjoy the experience, you could have a future employee. Activities include hosting a workplace visit, one or two days' day job shadowing, or offering two weeks of work experience. Working with post-16 students could involve a longer ongoing placement opportunities, or taking on an intern, a long-term volunteer or an undergraduate for a year in industry.

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Providing expert guidance

Nobody knows your business like you do. Sharing your knowledge and expertise with government – both nationally and locally – or with the education institutions around you will help to influence what is taught so that it is relevant to your business. This is also a great opportunity to raise awareness of career opportunities and what is required to succeed in your industry. You could be a school or college governor, or get involved in helping design a course relevant to your business. Or you might contribute to employer panels that shape education and training nationally and/or locally.

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Work-based learning

Helping a young person learn whilst working within your business is a great way to develop a motivated, skilled, and qualified workforce. Apprenticeships, Traineeships and Employment Support Programmes offer real job experience while studying for a formal qualification, usually at a local college or training centre for up to a day every week. However, you can adapt these training programmes to meet the needs of your organisation filling gaps within your workforce skillset and helping your business grow. The length of these programmes varies, as do the requirements to pay the minimum wage.

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Employers play a key role in shaping and influencing the education system in England – ensuring that young people are motivated, informed and ready for the workplace.

Working together brings tangible benefit to business, education and the local community. There is a wide range of activities that you can get involved in, with varying levels of commitment. Take a look at the activities to find those that are right for you.

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