The ways in which private enterprise can achieve a positive public profile by forging strong links with schools and colleges is one of the key messages to emerge from a new Skills Commission report.
The commission’s main finding is the need for educational institutions to become ‘a magnet to attract employers to providers and the glue to stick both together’. At the core of such partnerships is a scenario in which education and commerce collaborate to create tailor-made, often locally-focused teaching programmes generating a myriad of marketing opportunities to forward-thinking companies. Such involvement in education can carry considerable reputational and brand value.
Organisations such as The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) recognise the considerable value of such links. The IET worked with our education team to develop an exciting, school-based, hands-on experience which encourages pupils to recognise and refine their critical thinking skills. The initiative has yielded significant benefits. Even the initial process of auditing company potential for education enterprise projects can secure important organisational rewards.
The Skills Commission also advocate the creation of school and college courses designed to address specific local and regional business needs. Topics such as money management and financial literacy enable companies to offer vitally needed skills to both junior and senior schools. Larger organisations can buy stakes in education by creating specifically branded colleges.
A first step for businesses considering education enterprise engagement would be to identify aspects of their output which might have an educational dimension. Key questions for the senior management team are: ‘how might educational involvement meet our CSR objectives?’, ‘would our overall marketing strategy accommodate an educational dimension?’, and ‘are there ways in which aspects of our work would be enriched by school or college input?’
The growing number of schools converting to academies and the rise of free schools is significantly increasing prospects for companies to become integrated with the daily delivery of a wide-ranging and stimulating school curriculum. In return, such companies become closely associated with the achievements and continuing progress of a generation of dynamic, well-educated young people.
By Simon Hobbs, Education Planner