The government has announced a new careers programme for primary schools in disadvantaged areas that seeks to strengthen the link between employers and future candidates.
The programme, which will allow pupils to hear directly from employers and meet role models from a wide range of industries, will be rolled out across 55 disadvantaged areas of the country, targeting more than 600,000 children.
The announcement, made yesterday (5 January,) followed the launch of a new requirement that schools give pupils in years 8-13 (ages 12-18) at least six opportunities to meet providers of technical education, including those offering vocational T Levels which were first awarded in 2022.
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Neil Morrison, group HR director at water company Severn Trent, welcomed the government’s efforts to promote links between employers and schools.
He told HR magazine: “Anything that better demonstrates the range of opportunities that exist in the workplace to school children has to be welcomed particularly if it is aimed to raise aspirations in geographical areas of the country with lower outcomes.
“It is particularly pleasing to see the focus on technical education which provides a way into high-skilled professions and careers for young people, and provides a range of brilliant additional educational options for them to consider.
The regions targeted by the primary schools programme, identified in 2022’s levelling up white paper for education, are almost entirely (95%) outside London and the south-east of England. They include Rochdale, the Isle of Wight, Walsall, parts of Yorkshire and Sunderland.
The programme has been backed by £2.6 million of public funding.
Oli de Botton, CEO of career guidance service The Careers & Enterprise Company, which will coordinate the scheme alongside teacher training programme Teach First, told HR magazine that early careers intervention could make a significant difference for pupils’ social mobility.
He said: “Aspiration is often dictated by what is around – the industry, the jobs that are local or in your family – and so you want to make sure that you’re exposing young people to the widest possible range of options that they can have, from as young an age as possible.”
For businesses wishing to strengthen their own early career talent pipelines, de Botton recommended consistent engagement by means of talks and work experience, then internships and apprenticeships.
“That long and winding road to recruitment is effective, over time, if you engage early enough, and you build relationships with those institutions.”
Morrison also emphasised the importance of employers making their voice heard in schools.
He added: “Employers need to do their part, by providing quality work experience and engaging with schools to demonstrate the range of opportunities available, and to take the pressure off teachers, who can’t be expected to be experts in every industry or career.”