Developing employability across Bournemouth Dorset and Poole
This paper draws on local and national research to scrutinise the areas of
education-business links, work related learning, enterprise skills and employability
“skills”. The conclusion is that current resources, even in the rare areas of good
practice, are not as well used as they could be in a curricular model based on
planned cognitive development.
The proposal is that…
BDP educationalists should design and implement a new model within the 0-19
curriculum, advised and endorsed by the business community, for systematic
development of characteristics and qualities that enhance the employability of
The rationale for this is that…
o there is confusion between education business links, work related learning,
enterprise skills and employability “skills”
o huge resources are currently devoted to these without proper evaluation
and probably with significant waste
o the most important objective of them is employability – this outcome needs
to be defined and those activities identified and developed which can most
effectively and efficiently lead to it.
o the principal interest of employers is employability – a portfolio of skills,
knowledge, qualifications and characteristics/qualities.
o cutting back on activity which is marginal to this outcome will release
resource, focus energy, improve communication and develop a shared vision
A.1 The current position in BDP
Recent research into education-business links1 (EBL) in BDP has identified
considerable variations in their extent and strength, and the reasons.
The best are characterised by high level buy-in in both school and
company(ies), itself the product of one or more of the following:
o a vision of the role of EBL in school/community/curriculum/personal
o an environment which demands or favours vocational education
development as a strong selling point
The full report by Dr Stuart Burley can be accessed via
http://www.ansbury.co.uk/News.aspx For main points appended here click outline and
o enterprising individuals or groups who develop EBL on a basis of reciprocal
benefit (eg joint use facilities)
o senior manager/governor who drives this element of school work
More often EBL are vulnerable because:
o they are dependent on particular individuals whose roles may change
o their content is “bolt-on” – ie. they are not properly integrated into the
developmental programme of knowledge skills and understanding as in a
conventional curriculum strand – on occasions the relevant teacher may not
even be present.
o they can be difficult to manage and coordinate, and in consequence
disproportionately disruptive, adding less obvious but nevertheless
significant costs to transport and supply overheads.
o They fall outside standard teaching quality assurance systems so the quality
of the input can be variable.
More urgent than any of the above however the research found that growing
demands from schools fall on a diminishing supply of employer commitment,
deterred by perceived bureaucracy (CRBs, insurance), lack of outcomes, or
Taken together, these call into question the replicability and sustainability of
current EBL at just the point when arguably the single most profound secondary
curriculum initiative, 14-19 reform, is demanding more.
A.2 EBL WRL enterprise employability…
It is taken as read that they are a good thing, terms often used
interchangeably…but what are they actually for?
It is our contention that the principal educational outcome of all of them should be
characteristics and qualities in young people that enhance their employability.
A.2.1 Education business links …
…serve a number of valuable purposes. From CBI/DSCF dialogue to teachers
visiting work experience placements, mutual understanding between consumers
and providers of educational product is self evidently vital. At local level EBL build
links between school and community. They can raise the profile of both schools
and businesses in the field of corporate social responsibility. They can be of direct
mutual benefit, for example in the development of joint-use facilities or training.
..but they are not delivering on employability…
It is a characteristic of England that despite initiatives to develop education-
business links and work related learning over the past 20 years, concern and
dissatisfaction with the employability of young entrants to work remains.
This is increasingly mentioned in policy papers such as the Leitch review of skills,
and in critiques of the education system at local and national level, particularly by
the CBI. The CBI challenge goes back at least as far as James Callaghan‟s Ruskin
College speech of 1976.
Why do young people seem no more employable despite EBL activity?
We suggest some possible reasons…
A2.1.1 the quality of school leavers entering the job market
The quest for higher skills and Level 4 qualifications for 50% has delayed entry to
the labour market of previous 16+ and 18+ school leavers, and possibly given
some of them inappropriate aspirations.
Conversely the de-industrialisation of the economy and progressive automation of
such manufacturing as is still done in the UK means far fewer unskilled or semi
skilled processing jobs which required little of what today would be defined as
basic necessary employability skills.
Taken together these two factors alone account for a different quality of 16, 17 or
18+ school leaver.
It should follow that the modern counterparts of previous generations of sound
employees, now emerging as university graduates, would impress employers.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that this is not necessarily the case.
A2.1.2 employers’ requirements
The post-industrial (or even the automated-industrial) economy demands that
workers are much more than human machines that can be programmed to fulfil
predictable and rarely varying functions.
They have to be able to think and show initiative, to see a process through end to
end, reflect on its demands and how to meet them, tackle problems as and when
they arise, and identify how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the
process itself. They have to be able to work in teams to pool their expertise and
support each other. They have to be flexible and responsive. Surveys of
employers such as that conducted in 2003 routinely describe characteristics and
qualities rather than what most would understand as “skills” – nevertheless it is
worth maintaining the description and focus to ensure a rigorous approach. At the
same time it underscores the fact that such outcomes need not be too big an ask
of the education system.
A2.1.3 the education system
Schools and colleges list these qualities and skills among their corporate
objectives. Indeed the “personal learning and thinking skills” component of the
new 14-19 curriculum aims to produce :
o independent enquirers;
o creative thinkers;
o reflective learners;
o team workers;
o effective participators,
all of which have their criteria
(see http://www.qca.org.uk/libraryAssets/media/PLTS_framework.pdf )
The concern will be how strongly these can be emphasized against the demands
of the target driven assessment regime running through at 7,11,16,17 and 18.
There have been other definitions of enterprise skills, most notably that of Howard
Davis . The failure to build these in as core components of educational outcomes
in any systematic way is significant for this current project.
NB. Countries where young people are seen to be eminently employable when
emerging from compulsory education do not rely on of our levels of work related
learning. This seems perverse.
A2.1.4 The lack of a process of dialogue
Locally there seems little or no dialogue on these issues between employers and
schools. Such contact as exists is at the operational rather than curricular
planning level – i.e. in contributing to programmes designed elsewhere rather
than in design and evaluation of the programmes themselves. Even with the
welcome engagement in diploma design, employability is not an overt curricular
Some employers argue forcefully that schools are generally unaware of the
implications of economic/labour market change – hence dialogue is more
important than ever. (not just secondary headteachers need to be involved but all
– including early years practitioners.) Overburdened with initiatives – in particular
the demands of 14-19 reform which will appear to some heads to obviate the
necessity for this dialogue (“it‟s been sorted at national level”) – schools will not
have the capacity for more.
The strongest recommendation of the local research is that a single body,
and Education Business Partnership, coordinates EBL.
This is understandable in view of the considerable challenges of communication
and organization. However it is our contention that such communication and
organization may not be necessary.
A.2.2 What about work related learning (WRL) – the main curricular
vehicle provided by EBL?
As local and south west research has shown, there is a lot of activity being
undertaken and even accredited. The most common is two week work experience
during Key Stage 4, followed by education business link activity related to
curricular subjects such as business studies, then a range of visits – by schools to
workplaces and employers to schools, mock interviews, careers conventions, skills
…but there is lack of coherent curriculum design
The singular feature of all of these is that they are seldom integrated as elements
of the curriculum – that is, designed, taught, reinforced, tested, possibly
accredited and certainly evaluated. Such processes cannot be undertaken in the
same sense as with, say, an element of the maths syllabus. Take the most
common – work experience: it is simply impossible to ensure the level of planning
which is routine for all standard learning experiences. This is not to say that
learning – important learning – does not take place; simply that it cannot be
planned for every pupil.
In no other part of the curriculum is there similar acceptance that activity is a
“good thing” in the way that occurs with work related learning.
…and behind that is the lack of a cognitive rationale
Intimately related to this is the underpinning educational rationale for work
related learning. The now familiar line is that work related learning is three fold
o learning about work,
o learning through work
o learning for work
The first is vital for understanding how the world works; the second for motivation
– pupils learn best when they can see the point of learning; the third
encompasses employability skills, and this is a different issue.
Skills teaching (imagine for example learning to drive) requires careful definition,
analysis of the key processes, deconstruction into components in order to build
teaching and learning experiences to teach and practice, implementation by
skilled teachers, reinforcement, and testing. This is difficult, even impossible, with
much conventional WRL
…and no cost benefit analysis…
It follows that rigorous analysis of inputs, outputs and outcomes is not being
undertaken. It needs to be, before we conclude that we need more of the same –
i.e. take the extent of activity being undertaken by those schools leading in this
field and apply across the board. This would not be welcome or feasible for many
B. The alternative: a proposal
…approach employability skills as we might a project to develop driving skills in
the school population. This would entail:
B.1 Creating the case study
To provide a specific focus for the broader generic issues, engage a major local
employer to prepare an in-depth look at the organisational changes in their and
related business and the new skill requirements that are beginning to emerge
B.2 Highest level buy in from business and education..
Engage with the new employer-led Skills and Employment Board (as envisaged in
the Leitch Report) to take ownership of this work. The critique and approach
proposed here would then need to be explained explored modified/developed, via
a BDP conference and ongoing e-networking for continuing cost effective
B.3 Appoint of a project sponsor
With responsibility authority and accountability from B.2. Critical to success given
the different working groups and challenges outlined above.
B.4 Definition of employability characteristics
Who? Task and finish group of headteachers (inc primary heads) and employers
How? Work with starter for ten document provided by project sponsor
Outcome? Draft common definition for BDP, with related “KPIs” – with timescales
to allow scrutiny, modification, approval by e-network.
B.5 Curriculum planning
Who? Task and finish group of curriculum thinkers/planners informed by
How? Work with definition and KPIs to plan appropriate curricular elements, age
related teaching and learning activities to build the skills as defined in as rigorous
a way as would a maths curriculum KS1 to KS4.
NB: The type of qualities, characteristics and skills which are embodied in the
definition (q.v. the 2003 survey) are probably already being developed within
existing educational activities, or could be with slight and cost effective
Outcome? Draft employability curriculum for BDP – with timescales to allow
scrutiny, modification, approval by e-network.
B.6 Assessment planning
Who? Task and finish group of assessment coordinators informed by employers
How? Work with the approved employability curriculum to design assessment and
accreditation framework – eg. “employability skills report” which would carry the
imprimatur of local businesses and completed (in part at least) within any
relevant activity such as work experience, part time employment, activities
weeks, volunteering. Accreditation criteria / moderation activity etc will not need
to be as rigid as in other areas of the curriculum.
Outcome? Draft employability assessment/accreditation framework for BDP – with
timescales to allow scrutiny, modification, approval by e-network.
B.7 Launch, implementation, evaluation, modification
…to be scheduled later!
Chief Executive Ansbury
On behalf of the Employability & Education-Business Links Working Group
reporting to the Multi Area Agreement Skills Theme Group
1. CBI : Employers find school-leavers lack employability skills
The CBI Employment Trends Survey 2006 found that the majority of employers feel that
school leavers lack skills vital for employment: 65% feel they lack self-management ability,
70% were dissatisfied with business awareness, and 47% believed they had a poor attitude to
work. Just over half (52%) of employers were dissatisfied with school leavers key
employability skills such as communicating, team working and problem solving. Education-
business link activities, such as work experience, shadowing, site visits, mentoring,
presentations by employers, mock interviews and enterprise activities can play a key role in
ensuring the future employability of young people by raising business awareness, providing
employability skills and fostering the right attitude. Opportunities to learn more about business
are also highly valued by young people. Two-thirds of people aged between 20 and 30 think
their education could have done more to prepare them for working life, according to a survey
commissioned by Ofsted. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed believed they would have
benefited from more work experience at school and half said their education did not focus
enough on job skills such as meeting deadlines, attention to detail and team working. Valuable
employment skills that schools may not not providing their young people can be gained from
experience of the world of work.
Employers are deeply committed to partnership with education, with the majority of employers
offering work experience to young people. Last year’s CBI Employment Trends Survey data
indicates that almost three quarters (71%) of employers provide work experience for school
students and around 59% for university students. While many employers have valuable links
with education establishments, many also perceive significant barriers to developing these.
Research from City & Guilds found a quarter of employers surveyed saying they had not found
a way to make work placement schemes effective. Most of the employers surveyed want a
better dialogue with schools and colleges they support. Consultation with members highlights
that employers would like more support with costs and creating business-education
partnerships, as well as clear and joined-up guidance on child protection and health and
safety requirements. Employers believe that an effective national infrastructure to co-ordinate
and support partnerships would encourage business to become further involved with
education, as would the dissemination of good practice case studies.
Summary updated: 03/05/2007
2. Employer Surveys of require employability skills 2003 (Poole)
Rank Skills and Qualifications Needed
l Reliable and Trustworthy
3 Willing to learn
4 Able to work in a team
5 Enthusiastic & keen
6 Clean and tidy
7 Can work unsupervised
8 Can solve problems
9 Can work with figures
10 Can write clearly
11 Well organised
12 Good Communicator
14 Has some relevant qualifications
3. Howard Davies‟ Review of Enterprise and the Economy in Education (Feb 2002)
Enterprise capability …
• handle uncertainty
• respond positively to change
• create and implement new ideas and new ways of doing things
• to make reasonable risk/reward assessments and act upon them
Enterprise skills …
• decision making
• risk management
• self reliance
• respect for evidence
• commitment to making a difference
• adaptability • improvisation
• perseverance • confidence
• determination • autonomy
• flexibility • action orientation
4. Extracts from : A Research Report on Education-Business Links in
Bournemouth, Dorset & Poole
Dr Stuart Burley
Barriers inhibiting Education Business Links in BDP
o Education Business links are for the most part person dependent – reflecting
the individual characteristics, role/influence and available resources of
specific teachers, governors or employers. This creates a significant
vulnerability to change of personnel or role.
o Communication: on both sides identification of the key person is difficult
o A lack of dialogue with businesses and a lack of understanding about
individual companies make it difficult for schools to know both the
possibilities and restrictions of activities.
o The demise of the Education Business Links coordinating agency Links 4
Learning means that there is currently no over arching body for this work
o The potential for EBLs can be undermined, in part or whole, by the failure to
reconcile conflicting agendas.
o Some schools have recently found it more difficult to allocate students in
two-week work experience placements partly through some perceived
problems with the work experience database but also by employers
favouring extended placements.
o Priorities on either side can result in offers not being taken up or an activity
having to be cancelled – eg. lack of timetable fit or altered business needs
Variability of corporate commitment in schools – not mandatory via the two
drivers – Ofsted or league table position
Schools occasionally turn down the offer of EBLs where activities conflict
with the curriculum timetable – this reduces employer enthusiasm and
Some EBL staff in schools cited a lack of awareness about business and
industry amongst the faculty or senior leadership team leading to
difficulties securing cross-school buy-in for EBL activity.
Work experience is putting increasing demands on providers – CRBs, risk
assessments, insurance: numbers leaving the database are greater than
Pool of willing employers for work related learning links is defined largely by
work experience data base – hence the growing demands are hitting a
diminishing pool which is accelerating the attrition
Employers have expressed dissatisfaction with what they perceive as
increasing bureaucratic requirements when working with schools.
Some employers felt frustration with a perceived lack of interest from
schools towards offers of collaboration. Employers cited problems in getting
responses, reaching key contacts, the loss of key contacts, a lack of
dialogue, inflexibility on the behalf of schools and frustration at what they
perceive to be a „can‟t do‟ attitude.
EBLs are vulnerable when employers perceive a lack of value or meaning
towards their contributions.
The conduct of students can undermine the potential for further EBLs.
Some schools will prevent disaffected students from interacting with
employers and employers may be less inclined to develop activities where
there are discipline issues among students.
EBL activities can be undermined when there is a failure to outline clear
objectives and outcomes for both parties.
The ability to secure employer buy-in can be undermined when local
schools do not coordinate their activities.
Employer engagement may be underdeveloped where the person
addressing the issue may be inexperienced or less dynamic.
West and North Dorset face specific problems securing employer
engagement due to the nature of the local labour market and issues
How to approach
Some schools face difficulties reaching the key contact in businesses and
also struggle to make „the pitch‟ to employers.
Measures and practices which increase Education Business Links in BDP
EBLs are most successful where there is a strong corporate commitment.
Ideally there will be one or more non-teaching roles dedicated to making
links with employers and direct representation on the senior leadership
Generally it is those institutions which are committed to a wide range of
vocational qualifications which maintain some of the strongest EBLs, no
doubt in part due to necessity.
Some of the strongest EBLs are initiated by employers or organisations that
have a corporate commitment towards education, young people and the
Many of the best EBLs are initiated and maintained with the help of
intermediary organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors.
Successful EBLs have often been initiated by employers on the board of
It is important for schools to consult with employers about their recruitment
and skill needs and develop courses and programmes which respond to
these needs. Employers are likely to assume a degree of ownership over
activities which they are involved with from the outset and they are more
likely to remain committed over the long-term.
Good dialogue with employers will enable schools to identify the needs of
employers. This will help schools to make an appropriate „pitch‟ to
employers, targeting the motives specific to each business or sector.
Employers need to be made aware of what the school can offer them and
what the benefits of collaboration may be. It is essential in this regard for
schools to market themselves through open days, breakfast meetings and
any other employer-specific events.
The merits of EBL activities need to be sold to the senior leadership team
and the faculty by being outcome-focused and linked to the corporate aims
of the school specialism and the learning priorities of students. All proposals
need to consider all logistical matters and offer value for money where
The most successful EBLs incorporate activities which are embedded in the
curriculum and contribute to the accreditation of qualifications.
Schools are likely to prefer formal proposals of activities from employers so
that activities can be planned in advance and integrated as best as possible
into the curriculum timetable.
Schools and employers need to be clear at the outset about the
expectations, commitments, responsibilities and restrictions of either party.
There needs to be an effective mechanism for dialogue for longer-term
EBLs to reinforce the value schools place on the employers‟ input and to
share information both ways about unforeseen opportunities or threats.
Schools should aim to offer ongoing support to businesses, particularly
SMEs, with regard to interacting with students and the formal requirements
such as CRB checks and insurance.
Schools need to fully prepare those students interacting with employers,
planning the most appropriate placements and do all they can to ensure
that students maintain a positive relationship with employers.
Feedback from education and employers on what would help facilitate greater
Education Business Links in BDP
Schools would like to see a dedicated coordinator resource, committed to
initiating and maintaining links between schools and employers. The
individual would need to have a strong awareness of the local labour
market area and experience of business and industry.
An EBL coordinator would provide a consistent, coherent and persuasive
message about the benefits of employer engagement and would help
coordinate all schools‟ approaches to employers reducing the number of
requests employers receive.
A coordinator could help schools and employers plan activities, prepare
resources and offer ongoing support to employers regarding formal
procedures or advice on how to interact with students.
There was a preference for several coordinator roles specific either to
geographic areas and local labour markets or industry sector.
Schools and employers would like to see a more effective mechanism to
publicise the key contacts in either party.
Schools would strongly favour a portfolio of the offers and possible
activities being put forward by employers so that EBLs can be planned in
advance and to increase the potential for activities to be embedded in the
More should be done to share information on current EBL activities and
examples of best practice.
Schools would like to see an effective mechanism for dialogue with
employers to exchange information about education and industry. This
could take the form of an annual conference, establishing sector-specific
forums or developing two-way professional development placements.
Employers want schools to place more emphasis on the opportunities for
vocational qualifications and pathways and more encouragement of higher-
achieving students towards considering vocational routes.
6. Preliminary recommendations from the findings
Rather than repeat the examples of best practice described in this document, the
aim is to highlight some preliminary recommendations which may increase the
likelihood of EBLs in BDP. These are only preliminary recommendations as it is
hoped that the working group will generate additional ideas from the findings of
the research document.
6.1 There is considerable support from schools and employers for an interface
or coordinator to liaise between each party. The majority of the difficulties
expressed by schools and employers would arguably be addressed were
BDP to have an Education Business Partnership. A compelling case can
therefore be made to re-establish an EBP or provide an equivalent
6.2 Schools and employers both report difficulties finding the key contact of
either party. It may be appropriate to canvass schools and employers for
these key contacts and to provide a website with the SharePoint capability.
Such a facility would provide the opportunity for businesses and schools to
add or amend key contact details.
6.3 The same website could be used to publicise offer documents from
employers which outline the content, scale, timing and duration of proposed
activities along with the expectations and outcomes sought by employers.
Schools could also post requests for collaboration, complete with similar
details, which employers could access.
6.4 There is a need to facilitate greater dialogue between businesses and
education. This could be facilitated by an annual conference or smaller,
more regular meetings or by establishing geographic or sector-specific
education-business forums. There may be scope to utilise Sector Skills
Councils to facilitate the latter.
6.5 There seems to be a justification to ring-fence the current Enterprise
Education funding so that all schools have access to this to develop and
maintain EBLs and subsequent activities.
6.6 It was felt that employers needed more support and guidance about
working with students. It was also found that businesses are often keen to
work with schools to provide continuing professional development for their
employees. The introduction of specialised training for individuals working
with schools, along with formal accreditation, may address the first issue
and may act as an added incentive for employers. Completion of the
training may bestow the accreditation of „Associate Teacher‟ or something
similar. Funding for the training may be sought from the current Train 2
Gain programme, possibly under the Leadership and Management
6.7 Effort could be made to secure a number of resource packs from employers
– examples of real work scenarios and problems which can be used as
teaching materials. The production of a number of resources by employers
could be disseminated out to all schools rather than individual schools
approaching individual businesses. Moreover, schools that are using
existing employer resource packs for teaching materials should be
encouraged to share this information.
6.8 There should be a greater use of e-conferencing as a means of achieving
direct employer-student interaction. The use of e-conferencing itself is a
beneficial learning experience of modern business practice but it can also
remove many of the time and transportation issues of employer
engagement activities. This may be particularly useful for schools in North
and West Dorset.
6.9 If public sector funding is not available it may be appropriate to seek
funding for many of the activities suggested here from the largest national
and international companies operating in BDP. At present, most companies
have a budget for CSR in their local communities and a business case could
be put forward to seek assistance for this agenda.
For the full report go to www.ansbury.co.uk/