Businesses in the North East can inspire schoolchildren to acquire digital skills

Opinion, skills, talent, Newcastle, Edtech

Sherry Coutu CBESherry Coutu CBE, December 12, 2017

This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.

Over 120 educators and business leaders from Newcastle and the North East came together last week to explore how the community can work together to increase collaboration between education and business, and help young people develop the skills required in the next generation of growing companies. The event was hosted by Founders4Schools at the Boiler Shop thanks to the generous sponsorship from local organisations – the Clouston Group, NRG, Northstar Foundation and Teesside University.

Why is this important?

The pace of change in our economies is high and increasing. 100% of new net jobs created in Europe in the past 5 years were from companies less than 5 years old. In the North East of England, there are currently 700 scaleups, employing over 75,000 people, with a total turnover of £7.8bn. We know there are many ambitious scaleup leaders who want to scale more, but they desperately need help with access to talent. But, there’s a major skills gap amongst the UK’s young people. According to The ScaleUp Institute, 90% of UK scaleup businesses are concerned about a lack of skills post-Brexit, but existing structures do not allow UK plcs. to foster home-grown skills.

When it comes to STEM subjects, an area I am particularly passionate about, studies have shown a large decline in STEM engagement amongst young people that happens throughout secondary school. With girls, this starts to drop off even more dramatically, so that by the time they reach A Levels, only 19% of girls have elected to study two STEM subjects, compared to 33% of boys. Other skills such as critical thinking, service orientation, problem solving and people management are also vital to set young people up for the world of work.

People gathered in the room to discuss collaboration between education and business

What can we do?

At Founders4Schools, we’re tackling this problem by working to get every young person at least four encounters with employers each year while they are between the ages of 8 and 16, plus 140 hours of work experience placements between the ages of 16 and 24. This means that through a variety of different encounters from role model visits in schools, to careers fairs and workplace visits, young people can be exposed to the vast array of opportunities locally, which might otherwise have remained a mystery. This contact with local business can really impact students – whether by adding a subject at GSCE or by inspiring them to gain work experience in a business that they have been exposed to.

Work Experience helps young people grow their skills, and businesses benefit from much needed talent. 93% of teachers say that work experience boosts student attainment and aspirations. And 80% of WISE (World Innovation Summit for Education) experts said they would hire a B student with a relevant internship over an A+ student without one.

So, it’s clear that the benefits work both ways – great companies are learning environments and need talent to grow; and young people need help gaining crucial skills, and inspiration to find their passions in life. However, the reliance on informal networks means that many pupils in deprived areas secured no work experience at all last year.

People at the event

Preparing girls for jobs of the future

This is our rallying cry for you to help make a difference. It’s a very exciting time for us, as we have recently received funding to place 5,000 young women in Newcastle and the North East in work experience. The placements will be available to girls aged 16-18, through our new online service Workfinder, which was inspired by 16-year-old Maitri Panchal while she was on work experience with us at Founders4Schools. Workfinder’s mobile app enables young people to filter preferences, share recommendations and connect with great companies in as little as five minutes.

Sherry Coutu CBE speaking

What you can do

As a business person, you are a role model to the next generation. Give as little as an hour to help increase a student’s employability by 86%. Sign up to Founders4Schools and our work experience service Workfinder here, to indicate that you’re happy to be invited to speak in a local school, host a workplace visit or offer a work placement.

And if you are a parent we would also ask you to lobby your child’s school so that they adopt programmes like ours to ensure your children have the inspiration and skills for the future world of work. We hope you’ll join us in our mission to increase youth employability in the North East.