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18 October 2017 | By Pippa Morgan Insight

Back to school

Why more businesses need to go back to the classroom – and where they can find help to do it

Last week I faced one the toughest pieces of work in my CBI career to date: briefing CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn for a presentation to an audience of 200 primary school children.

Never mind lobbying politicians or policy presentations, this was for a school assembly hall at 9am – the definition of a tough gig. Tough, but one of the most valuable ways business can help UK prosperity: by supporting teachers and schools.

Make an impact  

Evidence shows that just four quality encounters with employers during school years has a huge effect on the life chances – specifically, employment outcomes –  of young people. Careers inspiration, site visits, using company expertise to link subject lessons to life beyond the classroom, job shadowing; these are just some of the ways companies can – and do – make this happen.

Carolyn went ‘back to school’ on a visit to Beckfoot Heaton Primary School, where she helped to launch the ‘Inspiring Bradford’ initiative. A great example, run by the Education and Employers Foundation, of activity designed to bring employers and schools together to help young people understand and demystify the options open to them for the future.

A bigger, wider impact

To increase the impact of such initiatives requires two key things: bigger scale and more business engagement. That’s why the CBI is working with the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) – to do our bit in achieving both.

In partnership with the CEC we have just launched a practical guide to help more firms get involved, build relationships with schools and understand how they can really make a difference when they get their approach right.

A number of companies – including Barclays, Adecco, Burberry, KPMG, NatWest, PwC and Rolls Royce – have pledged specific resource to areas of England where opportunities are most needed and social mobility is most challenging.

The message of our practical guide is that starting small is much better than not starting at all – so whether you’re a small, medium or large company, the first steps are to sort out the “why”, “who”, “what” and “how” of any activity. And, just like in school, learn as you go.

I finished up Carolyn’s briefing with a quote from Winston Churchill – as apt for businesses getting involved with schools and helping pupils as for young people themselves: “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential”.

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