Working pupils: challenges and potential

Cathy Howieson, J. McKechnie, Sheila Semple

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Successive governments, agencies and employer organisations have stressed the need for school leavers to be better prepared for working life, in particular, to achieve what are frequently termed employability skills; schools are expected to contribute to this policy agenda. Some academic commentators, however, criticise the concept of employability and schools’ role in it although others argue that the concept does have value and utility. While there are strongly held opposing stances on employability and employability skills, an aspect that has been largely ignored is the experience of the workplace that many pupils already have through their part-time employment while at school. This paper addresses this gap, drawing on a national study of pupils’ part-time employment to consider the place of part-time work in the employability skills policy agenda. It asks if schools should utilise the opportunities for skill development that much part-time work offers and whether employers should take more responsibility for the development of their ‘pupil workers’. It suggests that pupils’ part-time work may represent an opportunity for greater employer involvement in initial vocational education and training, constituting a small step in re-dressing the uneven balance of responsibility between education and employers that has developed in recent decades.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-442
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Education and Work
Issue number4
Early online date24 Jul 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • school pupils' part-time work
  • employability skills
  • worl related learning
  • student employment


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