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Employer blog - Meeting the ambitions of employers and young people: from outreach to intake

Oli de Botton

In today’s blog, Oli de Botton, CEO of  The Careers & Enterprise Company shares with us how employers can engage with schools and colleges through outreach, and the benefits of building long term relationships.  

“As far back as 1888 Royal Commissioner Sir Philip Magnus was asking ‘what, if any relation, should exist between school teaching and the work of life?’ Since then, through fits and starts, progress has been made in making the worlds of education and work more porous to each other. 

Now, as businesses look to tackle skills shortages and diversify their work force, there is real momentum behind school outreach work. And the evidence about what works is solidifying. We can say with confidence that when employers engage with schools with purpose – getting involved early – the work makes a difference to young people and their productivity at the same time.

A changing landscape

The latest data from the British Chambers of Commerce shows four in five firms currently trying to recruit are struggling to find people with the skills they need. At the same time a large and increasing number of employers are forging relationships directly with schools and colleges. 

Businesses say working with the education sector is helping them develop talent pipelines, close skills gaps, increase diversity, and attract job and apprenticeship applicants. Leading construction company Morgan Sindall, for example, now recruit 60 per cent of entry level positions in the East of England from their work with local schools.

The work is also enabling them to connect more closely with their communities, identify barriers, and play an active role in developing skills. BAE Systems are working cross-sector in the North-West with other businesses to build an understanding of skills pathways like apprenticeships whilst also boosting their own jobs pipeline.

Partnership and co-ordination

There was a time when employers were willing to engage in high quality outreach but there was no organising structure or coherent framework.

Now those barriers are breaking down. Schools and colleges have almost universally signed up to the Gatsby Benchmark framework which places working with employers at the heart of careers support. The national network of Careers Hubs is not only providing businesses with ready access to schools, but also links to wider support, enabling coordination and collaboration. Nine in ten schools and colleges are now in Careers Hubs.

We know from research among 400 major businesses and 4,000 business professionals who work closely with schools and colleges that this is having a measurable impact. Four in five say it has helped them develop their talent pipelines and nearly two thirds say they have recruited young people who have been on their work experience or placement programmes. More than two thirds say it has helped them attract a more diverse workforce.

It is also having a real impact on employability. In a survey of 34,000 young people, 74 per cent of Year 13 students say they are now career ready, rising from 45 per cent in Year 7.

Building on what works

A new set of Employer Standards has now been developed – codifying the most effective forms of outreach. These will help businesses ask the right questions before going through the school gates, as well as providing a consistent framework for measuring impact. 

Over time, as more employers use them, we will be able to understand the strengths of the system, which industries are having the most impact, what activities are the most meaningful and where we need to marshal more support to tackle disadvantage. 

The Standards are the product of nearly a decade of coordinated outreach activity linked to the Gatsby Benchmarks and many more years of national and international research about what works. Structured around three pillars (inspiring, building career readiness and collaborating), they give employers prompts, a self-assessment score and access to further resources.  

The ‘inspiration’ pillar highlights the importance of inclusive approaches making sure young people can see themselves in the industries on display, and the need to give real purpose to activities like work experience. The ‘career readiness’ pillar emphasises the need to build essential skills like speaking, and the importance of different routes into work like apprenticeships. 

The ‘collaboration’ pillar points to the centrality of long-term and mutually beneficial engagement.  The sort of work that international film studio Pinewood has undertaken, taking teachers into their business to learn about today’s workplace and helping shape how maths is taught in schools by linking it to its application on film sets.

So while employers will undoubtedly still raise concerns over skills gaps, there are now more coherent ways to work with young people that can bring benefits. Young people can be inspired about their future and employers can access and even shape their future workforce. 

As Sir Philip went on to say, ‘The true development of the faculties [through education] consists in bringing them into direct relationship with the external world.’”