Supporting employers to connect with schools : CEC Webinar

As part of our #CareerSpotlight theme this month our CEO Laura-Jane is Joined by Lesley Thain, Education and Engagement Manager at the Careers and Enterprise Company.

The full video is available to watch below with the commentary available underneath.

The Careers and Enterprise Company have also provided this Gatsby Benchmark Toolkit for you to use and explore.


This webinar covers the role employers can play in supporting young people in our schools right across the country to help raise their aspirations and inspire them in to the world of work. This is a hugely important topic as we know that for many young people having those connections to the world of work early can make a difference to how they then navigate their first career choices.

Q: What is the Careers and Enterprise Company?

The Careers and Enterprise Company was established in 2015 to prepare and inspire young people for the world of work. Back then there was a lot of great activity happening around the country but it was patchy. Our goal was to be an umbrella organization that could bring consistency and coverage to all parts of England to ensure that every young person, regardless of location or backround is inspired and prepared for the world of work. Following the Government’s careers strategy (launched in December 2017) which was followed by new statutory guidance for schools and colleges the Careers and Enterprise company has been given a wider remit. We now not only support employer engagement in schools we are also supporting schools to achieve all 8 of the Gatsby benchmarks for career guidance.

Q: What are the Gatsby Benchmarks?

Gatsby benchmarks are based on best national and international research and best practise, they define all of the elements of an excellent careers programme. The research was commissioned by the Gatsby foundation and carried out by John Holman who conducted a series of international visits to the Netherlands, Germany, Hong Kong, Finland, Canada and Ireland. The research came up with the 8 benchmarks for good career guidance. The Gatsby Foundation then commissioned a national pilot in 2015 to test how schools and colleges could move from their starting points to a position of achieving all of the benchmarks. Following the success of the pilot carried out in the North East, which saw some schools who at the start of the pilot were achieving no benchmarks meeting all 8 of the benchmarks within 2 years. The Government has now decided to roll out of that out further, The Careers and Enterprise Company will be supporting the roll out of 20 further hubs across England as part of our wider remit in the careers strategy.

What I think the Gatsby Benchmarks do is provide a really useful framework for schools to organise their career provision. In schools there is a lot of activity and sometimes schools perhaps do not structure that very efficiently and the Gatsby Benchmarks provide a really strong framework for schools to do that. The benchmarks also ensure that the needs of each and every pupil are being met. They are challenging benchmarks, and rightly so, they ensure that schools are thinking about each and every pupil.

Q: Why is is so important to have employers connecting with schools?

Young people are twice as likely to be unemployed than the average person, however they are less likely to be NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) and have higher earning potential if they have 4 or more encounters with employers. At the moment that is only happening in around 40% of schools so it is really important that we are ensuring that all students have got access to employers, and it is really important the students start to draw the connections between their subject learning and the world of work. We know that many students don’t have access to a wide range of careers through their family and friends networks and it is really important that schools are providing opportunities, schools wouldn’t be able to do this without the support of employers. It is really important for employers to be connected in to young people, to teach young people about the behaviors and attitudes required in the workplace.

Q: We hear often that young people are not leaving school with the skills and behaviours that are expected in the employment community. How can employers get involved?

We’ve heard a lot from businesses who think that young people are reaching them without the right skills and that young people aren’t prepared. It is the responsibility of business to engage young people and engage schools so that we can move the agenda forward. There are lots of different ways that employers can get involved and depending on the size and scale of the business will determine their time, commitment and resources that they can give to schools and young people. There are a range of different ways from individuals who want to get involved or the whole business by offering encounters with the world of work, work experience opportunities or volunteering on different mentoring programmes or ways that employers can get involved.

Encounters can be anything from an employer coming in to give a talk or an assembly in school, students going out on a workplace visit or work experience, internships or mentoring programmes. Quite often businesses are put off or think that they can’t help because of limitations around time, but if the business can commit to one event or one workplace visit a year than that is absolutely huge and will provide big impact to those students who take part in that opportunity. Of course there are many opportunities and for those businesses and individuals who can offer a higher time commitment they could also volunteer as an enterprise advisor and work with a local school or college to help them develop their careers plan.

Q: Do employers need training for those shorter activities, are there materials and resources available?

In terms of training, if employers are signing up with the Careers and Enterprise Company to become an enterprise advisor then full training and support is provided. All of our funded providers also provide training for employers that will be working with young people and schools through their programme. For those employers who are providing a one off  event or briefing there are lots of resources out there, we have produced lots of research papers on what works in careers education, these provide some really good hints and tips for employers. We also have our Gatsby Benchmark Tool Kit which has an employer section under every benchmark with tips on how employers can get involved.

Q:Tell us a little bit about the Enterprise Advisors and the network around the UK

We are active in all 38 Enterprise Partnerships across England, in each of the local enterprise partnership areas we have Enterprise Coordinators who look after clusters of up to 20 schools. They then match the schools with a senior volunteer from business who acts as the Enterprise Advisor to the school. It is their role to work with the careers leader in school or the senior leadership team to develop a really impactful careers and enterprise plan for the students. The Enterprise Advisors will bring their knowledge and experience of the industry to the table and advise schools on local labour market information, the employability skills that employers are looking for and really bring that industry focus into school.

Q: Are you still actively recruiting those Enterprise Advisors?

As part of our wider remit following the launch of the careers strategy we are aiming to expand the Enterprise Advisor network and be able to offer all schools by 2020 access to an Enterprise Advisor. We are actively recruiting more Enterprise Advisors and we would encourage anyone interested to apply here.

Q: What are the top tips for employers who reach out to schools?

For the relationship between employers and schools to be successful and impactful it is important for employers to find the right school for them. They can either do that through our Enterprise Advisor Network and get in touch with the Enterprise Coordinator to find out what the need is from schools in the local area. I would also encourage contacting other local career groups, local headteacher groups or the local authority to find out what schools in the area have need for employer engagement. It is really important that employers are understanding of the challenges that schools are currently facing with budget and resources. I think that often schools don’t have the capacity to take up offers for student visits or trips and sometimes this can be mistaken as them being disengaged and it is absolutely not the case. It is important that employers understand the current landscape and challenges. It is also important to build a strong relationship with contacts in the school and understand the school culture if they are looking to build a sustainable relationship with that school.

Building those relationships is important and thinking about the long term. It is important so the schools understand what the business needs are too, it is a two-way relationship and that is important for schools to recognise.

In my experience there have been lots of benefits for employers too, they have used it as a development opportunity for existing staff to take on leadership skills. Lots of benefits for employers.

Find out more & resources:

For more information, please email or call 01536 513388.

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