Employers across the country are stepping up their connections with schools to help students develop their employability skills in preparation for the world of work, according to new research published this week.

The Closing the Gap report by The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) highlights a significant increase in the level of business engagement in schools and colleges. The report found a significant rise in the number of young people meeting with employers, with great strides being made towards the CEC’s target of reaching all secondary and college students in England. 

The shortfall in employer encounters has been nearly halved, from 1.2m to 700,000 in the last 18 months. 80% of young people are now meeting employers every year and two thirds (66%) are benefiting from work experience. It means consistent and definitive progress is being made towards the overall target of four million young people meeting employers and one million having work experience every year. 

The report echoes the findings of the CBI’s Education and Skills Survey which revealed that 94% of businesses now have links with the education sector, with 56% reporting an increased level of engagement with schools over the last year. Areas of disadvantage are among the best performing, helping tackle barriers to social mobility caused by a lack of opportunities. Among the diverse range of employers involved are Airbus, BAE Systems, Toyota, KPMG, Vodafone, JP Morgan, Easyjet, Pinewood, Aviva, Seddon and Willmott Dixon.

With Britain on the threshold of Brexit, there are clear signs that businesses are stepping up their efforts to develop a pipeline of homegrown talent and help smooth the pathway from education to employment.

Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, said: "It is incredibly encouraging to see so many businesses coming together to deliver so much for their local communities. This Government has set out an ambitious vision for careers education. We want all young people to have regular, inspiring, meaningful interactions with the world of work. Achieving this will help businesses broaden and diversify their talent pipeline. But it’s also about inspiring young people, promoting social mobility and giving every young person the opportunity to succeed."

More than half of all schools and colleges (56%) are now fully achieving the target for encounters with employers and nearly half (49%) are meeting the target for work experience – clearly demonstrating the value of business involvement with education.​

Mark Livesey, Chief Executive of the LEP Network, said: "We’re pleased to see further ongoing increases in the number of young people that have the opportunity to access employers during their time in secondary education. We’re especially encouraged to see that areas of disadvantage are among the best performing, as well as the continued increase in the level of engagement of our schools and colleges.

"LEPs will continue to work hard to secure ever more improvements in the levels of engagement and achievement both through the CEC’s Enterprise Advisor Network and LEP Career Hubs, as well as through the new LEP Skills Advisory Panels which are so closely supported by the DfE. Together, these will help drive more employer engagement in the year ahead, and we’d encourage more of the UK’s businesses to make a difference to the lives of young people and improve their employability skills by getting involved now."

Hertfordshire LEP leads the delivery of the thriving Careers & Enterprise Programme in Hertfordshire. We are leveraging our strong links with the private sector to nurture a growing network of nearly 100 business leaders to work hand-in-hand with local schools. Last year, Hertfordshire LEP was also successful in its bid for a Careers Hub to complement its Enterprise Adviser Network and provide schools with more intensive support and tailored guidance to ensure young people are given the best possible start to their working lives. 

If you are a Hertfordshire employer and would like to get involved, please contact Gareth Dace, Senior Enterprise Coordinator, at info@hertfordshirelep.co.uk. 

Images: Hertfordshire LEP and Amazing Apprenticeships Mock Assessment Centre, July 2019