Grace Young and Simon Hill look at businesses that are stepping up to offer opportunities for students from all backgrounds to experience the world of work, creating win-wins for the economy and society.
Last month, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) published Better Off Britain. The report underlines that education is the best long-term tool to boost economic growth, living standards and social mobility. It calls for business to “step up” and offer valuable, inspiring and engaging work experience opportunities for young people from a wide socio-economic background and increase commitments to collaborating with and supporting schools.
Here at Enabling Enterprise we thought we should highlight some of the excellent work our businesses partners have been doing to support the CBI’s call.
Enabling Enterprise works across the UK with schools in areas of disadvantage and with businesses to ensure that one day, every student leaves school with the skills, experiences and aspirations to succeed. Our 70-plus business partners support our work in three main ways: by hosting visits from our partner primary and secondary schools; by investing in our school programmes to bring the world of work into the classroom; and by supporting our work with clusters of schools near their offices to help us embed our programmes into the school timetable.
Here are just a few examples of the businesses who are hosting Enabling Enterprise school trips this term, why they host them and what their staff, as volunteers, get out of it.
UBS works with a number of partners, including Enabling Enterprise, who each make a specific contribution to the bank’s aim of overcoming disadvantage by developing the attainment, skills and aspiration of young people.
Each UK employee completes a survey asking them about their volunteering activity, and also about its impact on them. From 2015, this will be implemented globally. 31% of its UK workforce volunteered in 2013, with 24% across EMEA. UBS employees link volunteering to areas such as an increase in job satisfaction and improvement in skills like communication.
Sarah Craner, of UBS’s Community Affairs team, explains that the bank aims to improve enterprise education in schools through up-skilling and supporting teachers, with volunteers helping to facilitate workshops for students at UBS’s offices. “The events are so well structured”, she says. “Volunteers score them consistently highly as they enable them to share their skills effectively to benefit the community.”
Having recently developed Values, Money and Me, a free financial education resource for primary school children, it made perfect sense for Experian to host students from Whitemoor Primary School in its home town of Nottingham.
Barbara Strang from the Corporate Responsibility team explained how staff at Experian get three days a year to volunteer at work, and that opportunities like school visits allow people to use their skills to support students. Bruno, a volunteer from Experian, reflected “I think we got as much out of this as the students – it was challenging to explain our roles and really think about how we communicate.” His colleague Will had never worked with children before and was impressed by how much the students achieved. An enjoyable experience all round!
Insurance group RSA has a well-established corporate responsibility programme that reflects the values of this 300 year old business. Core themes are enterprise and entrepreneurialism, and education and employability.
Peter Collins, Global Head of Corporate Responsibility, explained: “We recognise that the UK has a big problem with young people not being in education, employment and training. As an organisation, we want to play our part in addressing this issue. We have a talented and big hearted workforce and our employees want to help support young people across the UK to develop skills for the future”.
RSA considers volunteering programmes as not only giving back to the community, but as creating mutual benefits. Working with Enabling Enterprise is a “brilliant way for us to achieve our goals and our volunteers who have taken part have loved it.”
Neil Lightbown, Director of Global Speciality Lines, volunteered on a recent trip with John Perryn Primary to build teamwork and creative skills while designing an office workspace. “It was a real pleasure for me and my colleagues to meet these students. Their open-mindedness and eagerness to learn showed just how important enterprise education is, giving such an early opportunity to explore the world of business.”
And not just global businesses
Many larger business like UBS, Experian and RSA have well-developed corporate responsibility and volunteering programmes. However, in a recent speech on the value of volunteering, “In giving, how much do we receive?”, Bank of England Chief Economist Andrew Haldane pointed out that the real potential for growing employer supported volunteering exists in the SME sector.
Birmingham-based Unity Trust Bank has around 80 head office employees and a strong ethos to support its customers, who include social enterprises, charities, councils and trade unions. On a recent visit, students from Enabling Enterprise schools Wheelers Lane and Tenterfield worked alongside Unity Trust volunteers to plan a celebration event for the Bank’s employees. Reflecting on the day, volunteers Lisa, Emma and Gail were impressed that the children had picked up on the Bank’s commitment to charities.
Another example of a firm keen to develop its approach is out of home media agency Exterion Media, which regularly hosts Enabling Enterprise school visits. The firm also supports its employees taking time to support their chosen charities and to take part in mentoring programmes. Karen Landles, Head of Behavioural Insight, says, “bringing the students to businesses helps them to think about the different opportunities available to them in the future, our employees see it as such a worthwhile thing to do”.
Based in Aston, East End Foods started out 40 years ago as a family business selling eggs door to door. It is now a major supplier in the international spice trade and food wholesaler in the West Midlands with national reach. They’ve supported environmental projects in order to reduce their carbon footprint, installing 612 solar photovoltaic array panels on the roof of their state-of-the-art depot. They’ve also given time to their community by hosting school trips to their offices. Director Jason Wouhra is a regular feature of these inspiring visits, giving tours and sharing insights into entrepreneurship.
These are just a few examples of how businesses of all sizes are already stepping up by opening their doors to help today’s students develop the skills, experiences and aspirations they will need to succeed in the future.
Simon Hill is Head of Partnerships and Grace Young is Junior Associate for Communications at Enabling Enterprise.
Founded in 2009, Enabling Enterprise is an award winning social enterprise. We have grown from working with 600 students in 2009 to 35,000 last year and aim to work with 100,000 students nationally by 2017. This year we are a finalist in the Social Enterprise UK Awards in the Social Impact category, and a winner of the EducationInvestor award for Partnership of the Year.