Turning Tables

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What is it that will kick start the economy? Tough starting question I know and one being debated up and down the land whether you believe the economy is truly on the upturn or not. It is a problem we face in business as we start to develop or grow our enterprises in the current climate. As we grapple with day to day ways of making less go further, as our profits are diminished by higher bills and as our workforces face increasing personal challenges it is difficult often to see what we can do about it. Likewise educators whether in schools or colleges are also asked to do more with less and in their currency of student achievement they are expected to obtain profitable outcomes. But what is the measure? We look at profit and loss and teachers are driven by league tables that state how good they are regardless of the starting point at which they obtain a young person. This may seem like stating the obvious and hence you might be asking why you have even read this far?

The point I am trying to make is that the individual is being lost in all of this, yet it is individuals that will become future employees, employers and customers. So what are we doing to help the people that are going to become our most important people? A recent report commissioned by Pearson and Teach First looked at what young people want out of their education. It is filled with great quotes like this one, “There is a difference between getting the right answer, knowing the right answer and understanding the right answer” but it also poses the question about what educators need to do to meet the expectations of their learners. This actually complements another Pearson published report, this one in conjunction with the CBI that has the organisations Director General John Cridland saying, “It is essential that our schools equip every young person with the attitudes and competencies they need to lead fulfilling and productive lives’. So we want wider employability skills taught to our young people and young people want to learn them, why isn’t it happening?

In some places it is those institutions that have the benefit of great links with local industry or in those organisations where teachers are allowed to look beyond the league tables and develop the whole learner. But what of the others and what of the league table currency I talked about earlier? In some cases and in some areas of the county, business works closely with teachers to give them the skills to develop employability and the skills of enterprise, the sterling work of organisations like Young Enterprise and Hull’s Youth Enterprise should be noted.

For the economy to truly be kick- started this can’t be isolated and for the sake of our businesses we cannot simply hope that somebody else will solve the problem. Think about how much it costs you to recruit a new member of staff, all the costs, not just the advert. The time it takes you to write it, the time to produce the job description, the person specification, the cost of the advert, the time to read through the applications, to shortlist, to hold the interview, to repay the expenses etc. Then that person needs training and isn’t up to speed straight away, more money lost. It adds up doesn’t it. Let’s think about it differently, what if you grew your own? Working with a school or college gives you that opportunity.

That is just one way that linking with education can help your business, think about the future, who knows more about emergent technology and future trends than young people and a good project with an educator can give you that stuff for almost free, maybe just a bit of your time. You might just spot your future employee and using the apprenticeships scheme you could employ them and get them working just for you, picking up a star ahead of your competition.

So the educators amongst you are now saying, but I have to get my students to pass Maths, English, History etc. Yes you do you are correct. However doesn’t Maths and English get used every day in business? Isn’t looking backwards and learning lessons to move forward what good businesses do anyway? Those are just small, real-world examples of how business and learning can go hand in hand. Now doesn’t that sound like it could be more engaging to your students, wont that make them feel that their learning is relevant?

So in a nutshell, if we are serious about enterprise and the growth of business and the economy, we need to think differently whether we are business owners, teachers or trainers. It is a test of faith to get into each other’s worlds but if we care about our young people it is step we must take. This may seem time-consuming but partnership actually involves sharing that burden. We must work closer together. You never know we might just make this work.

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