Bridging the gap

17 March 2016

careersThe Careers & Enterprise Company is bringing schools and businesses together to get young people work-ready before they embark on the job search, says its Chief Executive Officer Claudia Harris.

The world of work is changing fast. Small- and medium-size businesses account for the majority of employment opportunities in the UK and more people than ever before run their own businesses. Industries are transforming and many companies that will become household names in ten years’ time do not yet exist.

With these changes come many opportunities. However, young people are not always in a position to take advantage of them and – while there are in the region of 700,000 unfilled vacancies – youth unemployment remains three times the national average.

Research by Sir John Holman, Senior Adviser in Education at the Wellcome Trust and the Gatsby Foundation, has started to provide real clarity on what helps young people successfully make the transition into work. His Gatsby benchmarks of good careers guidance highlight three key interventions: encounters with employers, workplaces and higher and further education; information about the labour market and future careers; and assistance in creating a plan.

The importance of encounters with employers is particularly well evidenced. Research by the Education and Employers Taskforce found that young adults who have more encounters with employers while at school are significantly less likely to become NEET (not in education, employment or training) and earn more than peers who had no such exposure. These encounters inspire young people and help them understand the relevance of their education; enable them to learn by doing; and bring them as close as possible to the reality of a changing employment market.

Patchy implementation
But implementation is patchy. Some schools are inundated with offers of support from employers and other careers providers while others receive none. Only in 40 per cent of schools does a young person have one encounter with an employer every year. The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) found that 66 per cent of employers think that work experience is critical or significant when hiring but only 38 per cent of employers offer work experience.

Goodwill on both sides can easily get dissipated by different timetables, languages and priorities that can make it difficult to build lasting links between schools and employers. At the same time, the evidence base is not always deep enough to help schools and employers prioritise between different activities, making it hard to determine where to invest scarce resources.

The Careers & Enterprise Company has been set up to help address some of these challenges. Our role is to ‘join the dots’ in careers provision across England and help to bridge the gap between education and the world of work.

We have started by identifying areas where we need to focus our attention. We collated the most recent data from UKCES and gov.uk to identify geographic ‘cold spots’ in careers and enterprise provision (details can be found here). We are using this insight to help with the allocation of our £5 million investment fund that will be given to organisations, ranging from charities to schools and community interest groups with proven careers and enterprise programmes, so they can scale up and support the young people who are most in need. We received over 200 applications and will be announcing the beneficiaries in March.

Connecting with employers
In September last year we launched the Enterprise Adviser network. Its goal is to make it easier for schools and colleges to connect with local employers and careers and enterprise providers, stimulating provision where it is scarce. It pairs individual senior business volunteers with senior leadership teams (SLTs) in schools and colleges. The business volunteer supports the school or college to build employer engagement and careers and enterprise plans.

The network is underpinned by a set of Enterprise Coordinators, full-time employees who will work with 20 schools and colleges and provide a simple overview of local employers and careers and enterprise services. Their job will be to knock on employers’ doors, understand offers from service providers and de-clutter the work facing schools and colleges trying to build plans.

The network is run with Local Enterprise Partnerships with whom we are working to build coalitions of businesses, schools, colleges and service providers. By regularly bringing together headteachers who are part of this governance we will keep talking to schools and colleges to ensure that we stay on track.

Building on the work of Sir John Holman and Dr Anthony Mann, Director of Policy and Research at the Education and Employers Taskforce, we will be working to expand the evidence base and develop an online portal to help schools and colleges access what’s on offer.

Find out more
The Careers & Enterprise Company is seeking your insight and support to build this network as effectively as possible. Find out how you can join their Enterprise Adviser network at www.careersandenterprise.co.uk Throughout this academic year, the company is arranging meetings up and down the country with schools. Look out for details on the website of a meeting in your area.

Claudia Harris is Chief Executive Officer of The Careers & Enterprise Company

Bringing the wider world of work to life…
Mike Garnock-Jones is Service Manager for Strategy, Skills and Enterprise for the Children & Young People’s Directorate at Sheffield City Council.

“We’ve found that the Enterprise Adviser network is very much a partnership between school and college leaders, enterprise advisers and enterprise coordinators. Their shared knowledge is having a huge impact on helping schools to plan their careers and enterprise support.

“Sheffield was one of the five pilot areas for The Careers & Enterprise Company and we’ve been working closely with 36 schools. In many ways we’ve had a head start and are using the experience we’ve gained from the pilot that began in 2014 to inform our work now. Our objective is to capitalise on the experiences and insights we’ve gained and get 80 Enterprise Advisers working in 80 schools.

“We know that, without support, employers find it hard to know how they can make the biggest impact on students. I’ve had a number of conversations with employers in which they’ve said they often feel that careers education is simply a process of ‘going through the motions’ rather than something that is engaging and inspiring. One decided to offer the ‘winners’ of mock-interviews an insight day at their company. The result was that pupils took the process more seriously and consequently got more out of it. We know that for school leaders, the external perspective offered by employers on the form careers and enterprise provision takes is invaluable.

“Enterprise Advisers from the business world bring the currency of work to the classroom, they raise discussions with school leaders on how employability skills are taught in schools and help to identify gaps in provision highlighting where schools need to improve. They also bring the wider world of work to life by establishing links with the local business community through personal and their professional contacts.”

Crucial support network and ‘Pop-up Job Shop’

Alison Scholey is Head of Life Skills, Moulton School & Science College in Northampton.

“The Enterprise Adviser network has proven a fantastic way for us to evaluate our current careers activity and identify the areas where we would like to add value and improve.

“We have delivered sessions to staff about how the network can support and make learning relevant to the world of work by helping students to make the links between what they are doing in lessons and their future.

We have also used employers to encourage girls to consider STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] subjects and careers, and to deliver motivational and aspirational talks.

“The network provided us with information on the local labour market and we used this to help increase our students’ awareness of the different career opportunities available to them in Northamptonshire and beyond. Through the network, we hosted a ‘Pop-up Job Shop’ in school to raise awareness of the labour market and dispel the myths around apprenticeships and we held a parent information evening.

“The network has helped us to think of new ways to embed enterprise across the curriculum. With so many doors having been opened we are now able to expand the opportunities for encounters with businesses that our students can access.”