106 Communications

6th Sense

The great Gatsby Benchmark debate and meaningful schools engagement

February 2020 | Apprenticeships, Student engagement, Youth engagement

Having done one stint as an Enterprise Adviser at an all-boys secondary school in Croydon, I am about to embark on my second tour, this time with Carshalton FE College. I am excited to see the progress that has been made with the network over the past two years as well as the support that the CEC (Careers & Enterprise Company) is providing the network.

At a recent networking event at BNP Paribas, we shared our experiences of some of the challenges that schools face with two of the eight Gatsby Benchmarks: namely 5 – “Encounters with employers and employees” and 6 – “Experiences of workplaces”.

And at the recent ISE Apprenticeship Conference, employers such as Deloitte, Virgin Media and Pinsent Masons openly shared some of their best practice around schools engagement, but were keen to point out how far we still have to go in improving access, education and aspiration around apprenticeship pathways, and specifically in hitting the Gatsby benchmarks.

Schools and colleges face a myriad of challenges including the volume of employer enquiries to no enquiries at all, selecting the right supplier to work with, and ensuring that employer engagement reflects the stage that their students are at in their career decision journeys.

For employers, the challenge is no less stark: managing schools engagement across the business and aligning schools outreach with recruitment; how to match the right employee with the right school; and regional variations in both Key Stage 5 qualifiers (e.g. Southampton – c. 1200 versus 57,000 in London!) compared with Apprentice qualifiers (twice as many in Southampton compared to London).

I don’t know that answer – funnily enough!! But one thing stands out to me, and that is why aren’t we pushing tech harder when it comes to Gatsby 5 and 6? The benchmark states that “every year, from the age of 11, pupils should participate in at least one meaningful encounter with an employer”.

The definition of meaningful is fairly broad but effectively what we need to be providing is the opportunity to learn about what work is, what it’s like and what it takes to be successful in the workplace. The benchmark doesn’t dictate if this needs to be face to face or if it can be delivered digitally or virtually.

But technology surely has to be a big part of the answer…

IF the consumer world can build emotional connections with their young audiences entirely online…

And IF the world’s leading colleges and universities are offering 100% online degrees…

And IF  elections in the world’s largest economies are being played out on the internet…

THEN surely a meaningful employer interaction is not only possible but is necessary?!

The future of consumer interactions is through tech. The early careers market will be forced to swim against the tide if they don’t engage more powerfully in the digital space.

There is however a massive elephant in the room.. and that is the quality of the tech infrastructure in schools and colleges. Simon Reichwald and I were chatting last week and the MKF Connectr platform is promoting quality experiences for their users. However, bandwith in schools is a barrier to ever more adventurous, arguably more meaningful experiences.

But, let’s not wait until every secondary school has gigabit-capable broadband; this will take time and significant resource. For entry level talent brands who have the will and the way to drive best practice, let’s start building brilliant case studies around virtual work experience and access to role models through tech.

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