Combined Authority creates more than 21,000 opportunities for young people to be inspired by local employers

More than 21,000 opportunities for young people to be inspired by local employers have been created thanks to a pioneering programme from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

The Leeds City Region-wide initiative, which recently exceeded all targets by recruiting more than 100 business leaders to work with 130 City Region schools, aims to improve the employability skills and career aspirations of young people 11 to 18 years old by increasing the number of direct interactions between students and employers.

The programme is founded on The Gatsby Charitable Foundation’s research for good career guidance which shows that young people who have four or more encounters with business are likely to earn around 18% more during their careers and are 86% less likely to become NEET (not in education, employment or training). The interactions have been delivered through practical and employer-led activities, including:

  • careers fairs to raise awareness of the breadth of opportunities available to young people;
  • holding drop-in sessions with sector-specific groups and employers, such as WISE (Women in Science & Engineering) to raise awareness of careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects;
  • employers Skyping into lessons to explain practical ways the curriculum is used in work, for example, engineers speaking in maths lessons to explain how they continue to use academic theory in the workplace;
  • workshops to promote apprenticeships and other technical pathways to careers; and
  • mock interviews held by employers to prepare students for recruitment and help develop their soft skills.

Business leaders, at senior management level and above, from across the City Region have been recruited to become ‘Enterprise Advisers’, working with a school’s senior leadership to shape their careers and employment strategies and maximise children’s exposure to the world of work.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leader of Bradford Council said:

“Connecting great education with business is key to delivering our Employment and Skills Plan for the City Region to ensure that people here, including our young people, have the right skills to access the jobs our economy needs.

“By creating 21,000 encounters between our students and employers we will inspire our young adults to look further, think bigger and reap the rewards of an economically viable career.”

Karen Higson, Student Advice and Guidance Officer at South Craven School in Keighley, has been working with Glynn Robinson, Managing Director Leeds-based IT consultancy BJSS since June 2016.

Speaking about the positive exposure to business her students have had through the programme, she said:

“I’ve had lots of positive feedback from the students who have worked with Glynn and his team. They have really enjoyed the opportunity to liaise independently with members of the business community outside of their usual school work and the experience of using facilities like email and web conference has given them a taste of what the working world is like.

“The students have also been inspired by working with BJSS. Speaking to people in business and seeing what they have accomplished brings to life what the pupils themselves can achieve.”

Rory, a first-year civil engineering apprentice at Carillion, returned to his former school Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds as part of a workshop led by Enterprise Adviser and Carillion Project Manager, Andy Crampton, to share his experience of training as an apprentice and working in the construction industry.

Rory added:

“I think it’s great for the current students to hear my about my experiences as an apprentice because I’m actually doing it and that could potentially be them if they took this route.

“The pretend assessment day we’ve set up as part of this workshop is really useful too. It gives the students good practice at a mock interview but it’s in the style of an informal selection process so you can relax and maybe show a bit more of your personality.”