According to Oxford Learning College, two thirds of large UK businesses struggle to recruit employees with the skills they need. At the same time, the Institute of Government & Public Policy (IGPP) reports that 70% of secondary school leavers do not know what career they want. Ouch.
As your local skills hub, we’ve been working closely with June Wilkinson, Social Value Manager at BAM Construct, and Flannery Plant Hire’s Skills Director, Paul Skitt, to try and combat this stark reality through teacher encounters. By encouraging educators to engage with employers directly, we can…
1. Provide businesses with an insight into education
“It’s mutually beneficial”, says Paul of the teacher encounters initiative. “We get a better understanding of how schools operate and they get a better understanding of what businesses need from students.” We also asked June what motivates businesses to take part in the initiative. The answer is understanding what schools need, she says. “It gives us a window into the world of education, which for many of us was a long time ago – so much has changed.”
2. Expand educators’ understanding of industry
“There’s often a narrow view of construction that it’s all hard hats and digging,” says June, who is thankful for the opportunity to expose the breadth of professional and technical roles within the sector. Paul has encountered similar misconceptions around what businesses need. “In the past, the education system was generally targeted at students gaining qualifications and good grades.” However, this has changed in recent years, he says. “Employers now work more closely with schools and colleges to develop wider skills and behaviours alongside academic achievement.''
3. Raise awareness of alternative pathways
Of course, “all the teachers that visited us had been to university, so they knew little about other career pathways or what support employers can offer,” recalls June. “If a student has a particular interest, we can advise what careers it links to and the best way to get there,” which might be T-levels or an apprenticeship. Design & Technology Teacher Craig has already secured two student work experience placements following his encounter. “I now find myself actively seeking avenues in which I can promote vocational opportunities. How well paid the programmes can be is a real selling point.”
4. Enrich schools’ curriculums
Businesses have extensive industry knowledge that can, as Paul puts it, “bring lessons to lessons to life.” Geography Teacher Rachel reveals how she was inspired by her visit to Flannery Plant Hire to create a GCSE lesson around construction careers links. “Before the encounter, our teaching in this area was poor,” she admits. “In the future, I’d like to expand the lesson into a long-term project or an educational visit.”
5. Secure businesses’ talent pipepline
“I was surprised to learn of the number of careers available within construction and how it’s an environment that should appeal to women in STEM,” says Craig. With major infrastructure like HS2 taking shape in the area, engaging with educators from Buckinghamshire College Group is a high priority for Paul. It’s not all about operative roles either. “We have a wide variety of technical support roles available, ranging from finance to customer sales,'' he says. “If you’re struggling to recruit, this is how to secure your talent pipeline,” June agrees.
Are you a business looking to engage future talent or a school that wants to empower its educators? Contact Bucks Skills Hub at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how to get involved in the teacher encounters scheme.