Gary Woodman, Chief Executive of Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, shares the journey of the Worcestershire Careers Hubs and the vital role they are playing, connecting young people in the county with local employers and supporting the region’s economic recovery plans.
Worcestershire’s two Careers Hub are helping to really connect schools and colleges with some of the dynamic businesses and organisations we have in the county. We have already seen the value of this and success with the programme.
Before we go into the success, let’s rewind to 2018 when Worcestershire was identified by The Careers & Enterprise Company as one of the ‘cold spots’ in the Country for careers education.
Worcestershire maybe perceived as one of England’s shire counties where the community is both affluent and ambitious. Yet, we have pockets of poor social mobility which are some of the worst in England and our Skills and Education strategy identifies the need to close the gap between employers’ skill needs and our career system.
We therefore need to inspire our future workforce to the employment opportunities that exist in the county, particularly against a backdrop an aging population and workforce. Although no different to many similar areas in the UK, this becomes more acute when you consider many of our young people grow up in Worcestershire and over 50% leave for education or work by the age of 18.
The Careers & Enterprise Company gave us an opportunity to resolve our strategic objective when we were awarded 1 of the first 20 Careers Hubs in the UK. This was a landmark achievement and we were able to get 40 local secondary schools and further education colleges involved with the programme.
This was the start of the journey for the Careers Hub, since then we have been doing all that we can to ensure that every young person in Worcestershire aged 13 and over will be exposed to more employer encounters and gain a greater understanding of the world of work.
In just a year we were able to make excellent progress on the work of the Gatsby Benchmarks and in 2019 we held the first Worcestershire Careers Hub Celebration Event. Over 60 guests joined us including local schools, colleges, Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) schools and even some of the county’s MPs.
The Worcestershire Hub then proceeded to be recognised by the Department for Education and be ‘Highly Commended’ for Careers Hub of the Year – nationally, at The Careers & Enterprise Company’s, Careers Excellence Awards 2019.
We did not get complacent with this success and continued our drive to improve careers guidance in the county. This resulted in being awarded a second Careers Hub this year focusing on just middle schools. This new Hub means that Worcestershire is the only new Hub of its kind in the UK to be delivering to all pupils from years 7 to 13 regardless of their education choice.
We highlighted the success we have achieved at the Worcestershire LEP Virtual Conference in October this year. The team shared that we have been able to achieve an average of 5 out of 8 Gatsby benchmarks across our schools and colleges, which is higher than the national average and that 83% of young people in Worcestershire over the age of 11 had a meaningful employer encounter in the last year. These are both incredible achievements.
Looking at the present climate, the work of the Careers Hub will play a key part in the county’s recovery and our vision for 2040.
It is important that we get young people engaging with their local employers to help them recognise the opportunities they have for careers here in Worcestershire. We know that businesses have been impacted by these lockdown restrictions, but by working with the Careers Hub they can inspire young people to consider careers within their company or industry, helping the county to recover with new workforce talent leading the way.
It can be difficult to get young people interested in the world of work, but our local businesses have a real chance to offer support, guidance and working opportunities at a time when young people are being hit hard. This will create lasting impressions, helping to keep more young people working within the county and engaging with employers.
I mentioned our Virtual Conference earlier and within our skills focus episode, I got the opportunity to speak with Luke Payton, headteacher at St Bede’s Middle School and our Middle Schools Hub lead. He was able to explain why the Careers Hub programme is so vital for his school and why this work we are doing is making a difference to the careers of his students.
I would encourage you to hear what Luke had to say by watching the Skills episode on our YouTube channel here.
Overall, we are immensely proud of our Worcestershire Careers Hub and the success we have achieved so far. This is a testament to the hard work and effort from all our schools, colleges, enterprise advisers and the Hub team itself and contributes to the future vision of the county.