FOUNDERS4SCHOOLS IN WALES
As this column discussed last week, access to skills is one of the key concerns of many employers in the UK when it comes to improving the future effectiveness of their businesses.
For example, the CBI has noted that low levels of skills is one of the biggest perceived threats to the competitiveness of the UK economy whilst the Institute of Directors has stated that in a post Brexit World, access to skills will be vital to helping achieve the future prosperity of the nation.
Nowhere is the development of work-related skills more important than within our education system and yet employers often complain that schools are not preparing their pupils for the world of work and have little contact with the businesses in their area.
To fill this gap, the serial entrepreneur and investor Sherry Couto decided to establish a new educational charity that would be dedicated to improving the life chances and employability of young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
As a result, Founders4Schools was created in 2015 to connect schools to leaders of successful growing businesses across the UK by creating encounters between student and employers that help to inspire young people by helping them understand what skills are needed to improve their employability.
So how does Founders4Schools do this?
Through utilising online tools, it makes it easy for students to link in with their local business community which then gives them access to three types of intervention to develop employability skills, understand the world of work and help informed decisions about their future.
The first is a range of student-employer encounters in schools where pupils between the ages of 6-16 are introduced to business leaders through encounters such as career talks, mock interviews and career fairs.
Then as students’ progress through their education, those between the ages of 12-16 undertake workplace visits which puts classroom learning into greater context especially in terms of future career choices.
Finally, its WorkFinder service not only makes it easy for young people to search and apply for placements but for employers to find students and offer them meaningful work experience roles in their businesses.
As a result, Founders4Schools hope to ensure that every young person in the UK can progress to 140 hours of work experience easily and that every employer in the UK feels confident in hosting effective work placements for young people so they maximise their talent pool.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this programme is that through utilising smart technology, it creates an easy route for all schools to have an embedded programme of career education and guidance that can be used by pupils, parents, teachers and employers.
For example, by the latest algorithms, it can provide schools with a clear guidance on which encounter types have the maximum impact on the employability of its students. This gives educators, pupils and parents access to real-time data about the work placements opportunities available within their area and the Founders4Schools online platform makers then makes it easy for schools to book workplace visits for their students.
The technology also enables teachers to choose the right speakers for their curriculum and, more importantly, for pupils. For example, those teaching a science subject can get access to local female business leaders to raise awareness of women in technology-based industries.
So what’s not to love about this amazing programme? Very little apparently and it would seem that schools and employers are embracing the opportunities it provides with gusto. Only this week, Founders4Schools reported that it had brokered introductions to employers for 250,000 young people. Unfortunately, whilst schools across England and Scotland have benefited from this programme, it does not operate here in Wales.
Why that is the case can only be answered by those education policymakers who have failed to grasp these opportunities available to improve the vital employability skills that are so critical to the future of the Welsh economy.
Fortunately, the BeTheSpark movement, which is creating a more visible, simple and connected entrepreneurial ecosystem in Wales, is currently working hard with key stakeholders to address this issue and to establish the programme here.
To do so will obviously need access to resources but what an easy win this would be for the Cardiff Capital city region, the Swansea Bay city region and the North and Mid Wales Growth Deals if they pledged that every school in their areas would be supported to gain access to local employers via Founders4Schools.
It would be such a simple thing to do but the impact in bringing successful local businesses to help develop the workforce of the future could be truly transformational for the Welsh economy.