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Tim Campbell MBE: How much is business actually contributing to education?

by LLB Editor
2nd Dec 13 4:30 pm

Can inspiring work experiences secure talent?

This is an excerpt from Securing Britain’s Talent – read the full publication online now:
London business leaders tackle skills gaps, leadership issues, youth unemployment and workplace diversity

The business world often decries the amount of skills young people have when they come out of mandatory education. But business is a major recipient of our education system. The business world has to be more self-reflective when it comes to young people’s talent and skills.

So how much is business actually contributing to education? This is not just about paying taxes. It must go beyond that. I believe the best way for the business world to better support young people’s talent and skill development is by dramatically improving work experience.

Most young people who do mandatory work experience will spend two weeks at a local firm, probably organised by their school and in the main sorted out by their parents or a family friend. I’m  sure a lot of people who have done work experience will remember it as quite boring and uninspiring. It normally involves two weeks of basic administrative duties. Now there’s nothing wrong with admin, but work experience shouldn’t be limited to that.

Work experience should be work inspiration – something that helps young people feel: “Yes, this could be my career.” So that when they get back to school, they work really hard to achieve a place in the world of work.

Businesses can do a huge amount to make work experience more inspiring. It will mean investing time to make work experience fulfilling for individuals – but that will benefit the business as well as the pupil. This is a quid pro quo relationship. All businesses of all sizes can get great value from young people: from their fresh ideas, their understanding of technology, and their energy. It just needs a robust structure around the time they are there, with a clear focus on outcomes and problem-solving.

An inspirational work experience placement functions as both a recruitment exercise and a marketing exercise for a business.

We all know how costly recruitment can be. Work experience can help companies identify potential talent early on, whether that business is a local butcher or a world-leading bank. They can then maintain a relationship with the young person, who might come to work for them at a later date or might recommend a friend.

Once a company has invested in a young person on a work experience placement, he or she will value that company’s brand incredibly highly. They are much more likely to become a peer ambassador for the company, generating buzz for nothing. That’s the marketing side of things.

Many teachers do a fantastic job. But it is not normally in their remit to know about the business world, so they’re not always best placed to give careers guidance. Work experience can help open up the breadth of opportunities available. There are so many things in our knowledge economy that children don’t even know exist. New types of jobs are being created all the time, and businesses can help young people see that one of those roles could be perfect for them.

Individual companies don’t have to tackle this alone. Ideally, we’d see much more collaboration in industry sectors. For example, consultancy firms might get together and work out a plan of action on how they can help nurture talent and improve work experiences. Then together they could approach schools and boroughs to explain which placements are available.

I’m just waiting for someone to set up the equivalent of an online dating site for work experience placements, to match young people with placements that really suit their skills and interests. If somebody could work out a business model to underpin this, I’m confident a lot of parents would support an initiative that took their children forward. Schools might even put some discretionary funding into a centralised pot, to fund a service that would match all students with placements – freeing teachers up to concentrate on teaching. I wonder which company will eventually focus its CSR efforts on developing this long-term intervention.

Business has a huge opportunity to step away from a historic reliance on educators to provide the skills needed to perform in the workforces of the future. By investing in and inspiring the next generation of employees with structured and solution-focused work experience, everyone wins. Let’s hope more employers seize the opportunity.

Tim Campbell MBE, chair of the first London Loves Talent Awards, is the 2005 winner of the Apprentice and founder of Bright Ideas Trust. Last year, Tim was awarded an MBE for services to enterprise culture.

Read Securing Britain’s Future online now:
London business leaders tackle skills gaps, leadership issues, youth unemployment and workplace diversity

NOW enter the LondonlovesTalent Awards: ENTRY DEADLINE: 6 DECEMBER 2013

Get your business and talent recognised – enter the London Loves Talent Awards by 6 December

Judged by Tim Campbell, Will King, Terry Morgan CBE, Amit Bhatia, Matthew Hancock MP, June Sarpong & more

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