Raising the Bar and Removing the Barriers: What Employers Can Offer Education

A report by FreshMinds Research Agency and commissioned by Business in the Community (BiTC), Edge and NEBPN, now the Institute for Education Business Excellence (IEBE)

This report examines several themes: employer awareness of opportunities for engaging with schools; ways in which this awareness can be improved; factors of key importance in current relationships; the popularity of various forms of engagement; and the role and effectiveness of the broker (the Education Business Partnership Organisation, or EBPO).

FreshMinds carried out two surveys of private-sector employers and schools (about 500 respondents in each sample), as well as holding six focus groups attended by a mix of educators, employers and learners. Secondary resources used were public policy analyses, a series of “expert position papers” and commissioned essays.

The report sees plenty of scope for growth in levels of engagement:

  • 60% of employers surveyed were not engaged with activities in education
  • 28% of uninvolved employers were very willing to become so and 29% of schools said the same
  • “74% of employers and 98% of school personnel see a mutual benefit from employers engaging with education”

Despite these high levels of enthusiasm there is a significant gap in employers’ awareness of opportunities to engage:

  • 52% rated their knowledge of opportunities at 5 out of 10 and 57% “had not heard of their local EBPO”
  • Contributing to this was a low appreciation of the value of going through an EBPO, 65% of unengaged employers saying they would rather deal directly with schools
  • The size of the business is proportional to how much the EBPOs are valued; the larger they are the more they value the EBPO

Employers highlighted the importance of receiving feedback from the schools they work with and both schools and employers flagged up communication barriers: “the focus groups identified the jargon of business and the terminology of education as alienating to each other, not to mention students”. The report mentions that the mediating influence of an EBPO can be extremely helpful in such scenarios. Indeed, it finds that those employers with experience of EBPOs are between 4 and 7 times more likely to feel very informed about a wider range of engagement opportunities, such as delivering CV writing workshops and hosting work-placements for teachers.

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