“It is incredibly beneficial for the students to have an insight into industry, understand how their capabilities are relevant to the world of work, and identify the skills they need to succeed in their career.”
Allison Giles, Careers & Enterprise Co-ordinator at Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)
Founders4Schools (F4S) has been working with the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) since early 2015, and was a beneficiary of the CEC Fund in 2016, working collaboratively to bridge the gap between skillsets and the rapidly evolving needs of the job market.
Allison comments, “CEC reports directly into the Department for Education with a mandate to connect employers and enterprise activity in schools and colleges. It is vital to give young people a sense of the requirements of local employers. Research by Professor Anthony Mann of Education and Employers has proven that when young people have more than four encounters with an employer they are 86% less likely to become NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training). Although these interactions must be authentic, which is why I value the work of Founders4Schools”.
Allison and her network of volunteer Enterprise Advisors are currently working with 27 schools and colleges across Thames Valley Berkshire, helping senior leadership teams to create lasting employer engagement relationships and enterprise plans.
Allison adds that “The statutory guidance “for Careers Education, and the nationally recognised Gatsby Benchmarks, have highlighted the importance of weaving enterprise into the school’s curriculum. We have a responsibility to help young people take the next step, especially as digital technology is moving at such a rate, with new roles emerging all the time.” This is especially relevant in Berkshire, where 14% of all jobs are in the ICT/digital technology sector, compared to 4% in England as a whole.”
Above, Sherry Coutu CBE, Serial Entrepreneur, Angel Investor and Founder & Chairman of Founders4Schools
Working with Founders4Schools, has helped Allison to connect schools and colleges with businesses in the local area. She says “The website is incredibly useful for schools and colleges and easy to plug into, for example, to PHSE lessons, off timetable days, careers events and to provide all important speaker opportunities. Once we demonstrate to schools and colleges that it’s free and easy to navigate, we find that the barriers of capacity and timing fall. Recently, we held a careers cluster meeting, when F4S came along to demo the service to Careers Advisers from about 10 schools, and it was invaluable. We are working hard to share with teachers that this doesn’t have to be onerous; they have control over what happens next and the benefits to students are immeasurable.”
Setting up a closer connection between an educational institution and local employers is already paying dividends at University Technical College in Reading and St. Crispin’s School in Wokingham. Elizabeth Roberts-Garth from St. Crispin’s said of F4S, “I just wanted to share that we used F4S for the first time on the 1 March as part of our year 8 work-related learning day, and we had a fantastic experience. The 12 speakers we had were brilliant and we held a QA session for our students; most students voted this as their favourite part of the day. I would highly recommend them (F4S). The service is easy to use and Rodrigo went out of his way to help us.”
Thames Valley Berkshire LEP recently launched a Labour Market Information (LMI) guide for schools in Berkshire to help students understand where they could focus their efforts. Additionally, the LEP issues bi-monthly e-updates about the Enterprise Adviser Network to schools, colleges and Enterprise Advisers across Thames Valley Berkshire, presenting the latest news from CEC and the local careers and education sector. Allison comments, “People have reacted positively to the information we have circulated. We believe F4S is an excellent conduit to take forward employer engagement by getting specific speakers in relevant industries to go into schools and colleges, adding real value to the school’s enterprise programme.”
How do we know that these interventions make a difference to students? In addition to research data proving the correlation between employer encounters and the likelihood to become NEET, Allison has seen first-hand that greater interaction with employers means that students are more likely to identify skills desired in the workplace. She says, “It opens new doors for students that they didn’t know existed, whether that be in employment, traineeship, apprenticeship, sixth form or a degree. Our work with F4S is about helping young people to make sense of the diverse range of job roles, take control and give themselves the best chance of a great career in the long term.”
According to Allison, it is not just academic or technical skills that are important to local employers. Employers are sharing that they are looking for softer skills too, such as curiosity, willingness to learn and general work ethics like punctuality. The skills and insight that business leaders can share directly into the classroom are invaluable in setting young people up on the path that is right for them.
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