How Worcestershire is maximising employer engagement in education

Matt Tope is Careers Hub Manager at Worcestershire LEP. Following the conception of The Careers & Enterprise Company initiative in 2015, he led the implementation and creation of Worcestershire’s own Enterprise Adviser Network. As Careers  Hub Manager he now manages the wider delivery team to ensure that all hub schools are fully supported to achieve the eight Gatsby Benchmarks.

In Worcestershire, we’re strong advocates of helping businesses, schools and education providers to work together to benefit younger generations, not just to help improve careers support at a crucial stage in life, but to inspire all young people to achieve their goals.

In 2017, Worcestershire became the first region in the UK to successfully recruit all secondary schools to The Careers & Enterprise Company Enterprise Adviser Network. Since then, we’ve showcased the county as an exemplar for effective partnership between business and education.

Three keys to success

When myself and colleagues are asked about how we’ve been able to make such an impact in Worcestershire, I point towards three topics: the effectiveness of our Enterprise Adviser Network, the local business’ understanding of developing our future workforce, and our popular events.

Like all EA Networks across the country, ours is helping to create powerful, lasting connections between local businesses and schools by bringing together company volunteers and school leadership teams. As well as all secondary schools, we have further education colleges and SEND schools signed up to the initiative.

As our network has such a wide coverage across the county’s schools and colleges, we have been able to develop effective careers planning strategies for young people from many different backgrounds. This is crucial as different parts of our county lean towards employment in their own specialist sectors (e.g. advanced manufacturing, cyber security, agri-tech), and so it really is beneficial that we have advisers from these areas.

Creating our future workforce     

Building on earlier successes in 2018, Worcestershire received funding to become one of the 20 Careers Hubs in England, helping to further transform careers education for young people across the county.

We are proud that our Careers Hub is helping 40 schools and colleges to meet the Gatsby Benchmarks and benefit from engagement with businesses, who clearly recognise the added value to the economy and their future workforce.

These benchmarks ensure that every young person in Worcestershire aged 13 and over will receive more employer encounters and gain a greater understanding of the world of work. The benchmarks also offer individualised information, advice and guidance around a range of post 16 education offers, from sixth form colleges and technical colleges, to university and apprenticeships, enabling young people to make more informed choices.

Worcestershire’s businesses have bought into the importance of this initiative which addresses the national skills gap. This is a concern that businesses in Worcestershire raise time and again in local surveys and research. It’s our job to help them understand that by putting aside a fraction of their time now, they can improve the learning of younger generations. To do this, we launched a new campaign for businesses ‘Creating our Future Workforce’, backed by educational institutions.

We’ve already gained the support of many businesses of all sizes to get involved, whether it’s running assembly talks at schools, supporting young people with mock interviews and CV workshops or simply offering a young person a work experience or internship opportunity.

Highly engaged events

We launched our campaign at the Worcestershire LEP Annual Conference which brought together over 400 businesses. This highlights the significance of skills in the business community and showcases the high level of engagement.

Our Worcestershire Skills Show event attracted over 5,000 young people, businesses and education providers. This was the largest skills event that Worcestershire has ever held and one of the largest in the Midlands. A total of 46 schools and colleges attended throughout the day, visiting over 110 businesses.

The event was divided into six key zones which group together like-minded businesses from different sectors, with a prominent focus on Worcestershire’s key sectors for growth potential: Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.

One of the main reasons the event has developed such a strong reputation is that we pay real attention to ensuring that the business exhibition stands are interactive and engaging. It sounds like an obvious point, but it really does help to bring the event to life for young people, and of course, their potential careers.

The Worcestershire Careers & Enterprise Company team is always happy to discuss the local skills network and if you would like pledge your support, please sign up via the online form here or email cec@worcestershire.gov.uk