Better preparing students for the world of work can inspire confidence and outcomes while bridging skills gaps, education leaders have claimed, as projects are set to be expanded across Yorkshire.
Social enterprise the Ahead Partnership, working with three schools in Kirklees, has helped forge networks with employers to support students’ careers and is now to see its initiatives explored across 12 sites.
It comes after findings that such access can raise aspirations and improve outcomes, with further studies calling for a “seismic shift” in focus from exam preparation to life skills.
Now, with extra funding secured to expand the project, organisers say they can support great numbers of young people.
“This funding allows us to accelerate our work in Kirklees and address gaps identified through our close working relationships with the schools, the Leeds City Region Enterprise Coordinators and the local authority,” said the partnership’s chief executive, Stephanie Burras.
Calling on businesses to back the scheme, she added: “The skills challenge we face as a region can only be solved when business and education work closely together.”
A study by the Education and Employers charity, published this month, found that teenagers taught about the world of work are more motivated and more likely to exceed predictions over higher GCSE results. A further report, based on a survey of 3,200 teachers by charity Big Change, found three-quarters believed a greater shift was needed within schools, from a focus on exam preparation to life skills.
The Ahead Partnership has secured funding from The Careers & Enterprise Company to expand its reach. The programmes, designed to forge links with employers, see industry days, workplace visits, interview practice, careers panels and networking sessions.
Katie Bland, the assistant headteacher at Whitcliffe Mount School which is already working with Ahead Partnerships, said they have witnessed the “huge value” it can bring.
“We always snap up these opportunities as it only broadens the already wide opportunities the Whitcliffe students receive in terms of their careers and world of work understanding,” she said.
“Students gain and improve their self-esteem, confidence and understanding in terms of what is expected to have aspirations and achieve a career in something they are interested in.”
Claire Lawler, careers advisor at Heckmondwike Grammar, said students had found guidance useful, with 97 per cent agreeing it had given them a greater understanding of the world of work.
“It did have such a positive impact on students’ aspirations,” she added.
The initiative will focus on sectors set out as priorities in Kirklees Council’s economic strategy, in areas including engineering and manufacturing; construction and infrastructure; creative and digital; and financial and business support services.
Kirklees Council’s service director of economy and skills, Angela Blake, said work already underway was changing opportunities and preparing young people for their futures in an ever-changing world.
“We hope that this funding will allow Ahead Partnership to develop a pipeline of skilled young people to address key employment challenges and growth needs.”