We caught up with Julie Poppleton, Head of CEEIAG Careers, Employability, Information Advice & Guidance at Chase Terrace Community College who gave us 10 top tips for working with a school. We know that lots of employers are willing and that schools are keen to have the support of local and national employers so how can we make this work better?
- Speaking to Schools – can be very slow to respond to emails and calls. Teachers spend their day times teaching, so it may take a number of days for them to get back to you. If you’re phoning a school, it is best to call during lunch time or after 3.30pm. Alternatively ask the receptionist if the Teacher or Careers Advisor you are trying to contact has a free lesson. I personally find contact by email is more effective so I can look at my emails at the beginning or the end of each day.
- Lesson plans and timetables are set far in advance sometimes even as far as a year ahead which can make them relatively inflexible. This is something useful to consider when you are thinking of arranging times and dates to come into school.
- Any employer and size business can get engaged with a school– One common concern raised by some of our SMES (small-to-medium enterprise) is that they are concerned what time they could commit to a school. Any amount of employer engagement forms a whole part of the careers framework. We have some employers who only come once a year for an hour to do some mock interviews or run a morning workshop once a year or come and be a ‘Dragon’ for a few hours once a year. It is all vital and it all counts! Our students could be the local employer’s future workforce so it is a great way of getting to meet them earlier on. We now have some of our SMES who contact us to advertise and recruit some of students directly.
- The earlier the employer engagement is the better- Employers contact your Primary Schools as well. Raising aspirations from a young age is recognised as being a key strategy. Primary Schools are really becoming very keen to get employers into school.
- Planning your engagement and preparation to work with students – Make it interactive, age appropriate and inspiring- Students really like to get stuck in and hands on and experience work related learning through being as interactive as possible. Be personable and be yourself and talk about your own journeys to get you where you are now. Use examples which students may be able to relate to. Images and videos can work well in presentations. Describe the career ideas you had from a young age and how education helped with any career success or even failures. Do a case study and talk about your typical day bringing it to life with examples. This can give students an insight into potential careers. Be honest and transparent about your job and the challenges you can face .Include what you do or don’t like about your role. Ask the school about typical questions the students might ask, so you can talk about areas they might be interested in. Be aware of the age group you will be with and then relate back to when you were their age. What was most important to you? What made you excited?
- Contact and engage wider organisations including Youth Employment UK and your local Careers and Enterprise Network- Sometimes messages and emails can get lost in translation and end up in the wrong person’s inbox which can also happen in Businesses. The right person may not always know you have been trying to contact them. If you are struggling to find the right contact in school other organisations may be able to help introduce you to each other.
- Offer opportunities such as Workplace visits, Work experience and Work shadowingThese can be an additional way of engaging and building relationships with schools. It gives young people a much better insight into the working environments which they may be in and what would be expected of them.
- Industry events and careers expos – Something my careers colleagues can really struggle with is getting employers to attend these type of events to exhibit. They are a great way to showcase your business and reach a large number of students at one time. The events can have a big impact on students, and may lead to them seeking your business out as a future place to work.
- Why are you doing this? – Think about how you currently try to engage with young people. Are there any problems or skills gaps you are trying to solve or fill by attracting young people into your industry? Is your current involvement working and is it giving you access to the right students at the right time to build your skills gap. How do you know what works and what could make it better? Evaluate your impacts and outcomes and review your activities by the results you get.
- Follow up with the school. – Get feedback from the school and ask if the students and teachers felt the sessions could be improved in anyway. You can use this feedback to improve future sessions.
- This isn’t the first time Julie has shared her insight with us, you can watch a full webinar discussing employers and schools here
- If you are considering your strategy for engaging young people with the world of work, why not explore our Careers Hub, there are plenty of ways for our members to get involved
- If you are working with schools you could be entitled to a Talent Match Mark Award, find out more here