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Education at Sky

Posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

For this edition of The Channel we interviewed Daniella Vega, Head of Corporate Responsibility at BSkyB. Daniella is a senior leader at Sky and a recognised expert in Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability. She has been at Sky for ten years and spoke to us about how important education is to the business.

Q: Why is Sky involved with education and young people?

The current economic climate creates a grim outlook among young people thinking about employment opportunities. I believe it is essential for businesses to get involved with education and young people in order to change this negative narrative to a more positive picture by providing practical assistance to help young people gain experience and understanding of work.

Sky is a powerful brand in engaging young people. The impact of the brand, coupled with the appeal of TV and media in general, mean we have a great vehicle for helping young people to learn and develop life skills.

Q: How do you design and develop your education strategy?

Our education strategy begins with looking at our business assets – including our staff, our resources, our technology, and the focus of our work – and with talking to teachers. Teachers help us to understand the needs of young people and how we can add value to schools and to society. We combine what we learn from teachers with our in-house skills and passions to create education programmes that reflect Sky’s work and help young people’s lives.

A good example is Sky Sports Living for Sport. This initiative has been running for ten years and was developed through listening to teachers and applying their insights to an area that Sky specialises in, which is sport. The programme involves athlete mentors visiting schools to encourage a positive attitude to learning. Results are fantastic – we have seen 80% improvements in attendance, punctuality and attainment amongst some participants – and we work with teachers on a regular basis to keep growing and improving the programme.

Q: Are education programmes about “giving back to society” or more than that?

I don’t like the expression “giving back to society”. It sounds like a short-term fix and implies that you have taken something away from society in the first place. Sky’s work in education and with young people is a central part of the business. The work we do in this area benefits everyone involved and is a core part of our commercial identity. Through our initiatives young people gain and develop life skills, teachers and schools receive resources which help them to educate their pupils, and as a business we build a favourable reputation with consumers, and with our own employees. Our education programmes are about collaboratively working within communities, not about one-way hand outs.

Q: How do you measure the impact of your education activity – upon young people and for the business?

Measurement and evaluation of our projects is crucial and we spend a lot of time and resource on getting it right. Without demonstrating both the brand and the social impact of our initiatives, we would not be able to keep developing them.

All of our education work centres on the development of life skills. A good example of this is Sky Skills Studios. The common thread between programmes means that we have a single framework of evaluation which is applied to all of our projects to measure their effect. The framework involves a pre-programme questionnaire for participants (this includes young people, business volunteers and teachers when relevant), a second questionnaire immediately after the programme, and then a third evaluation some time later. This thorough approach allows Sky to make a robust statement about the success of our education work.

From a brand perspective we measure impact through a quarterly tracking system. We measure brand favourability as a result of our education programmes among consumers, staff and opinion-formers.

Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities for companies working with the education sector?

There is a big difference between the way businesses and schools operate. This can lead to challenges around the speed at which projects can be implemented, and around effective communication. These challenges can be avoided by working with education experts who understand and can interpret school culture.

Another challenge is in keeping up with changes to schools and the curriculum and understanding the direction that the education system is headed in. It requires time and effort to stay on top of the current education landscape but it is crucial for any business wanting to work with young people.

There are huge opportunities associated with working with the education sector. Working with schools allows your business to play a key role in society and help to shape the next generation of consumers and employees. It also gives real brand benefits with recognition from consumers.