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West Midlands’ teachers and businesses team up to help students get on the right career path

Published: Thursday 25 May 2023

West Midlands-based businesses and forward-thinking teachers yesterday (Wednesday 24th May) took part in a national programme aimed at boosting collaboration and improving young people’s career opportunities.

The first Teacher Encounters event in the region was led by the Black Country Careers Hub, West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), together with the Careers and Enterprise Company, and looked to connect teachers with local businesses allowing them to explore future job opportunities for their students.

A range of businesses, from SMEs to major multinationals, were at the event at Faithful+Gould’s Birmingham offices at Paradise Circus, before travelling to Birmingham Airport for job demonstrations in the afternoon.

Teachers learnt how major corporations, local supply chain, and public-facing clients worked together on a variety of projects, whilst also being shown the alternative pathways that they can use to guide their students onto the right career ladder.

This, in turn, gave them a further insight into how they can teach their subjects by linking classroom topics to workplace skills and real industrial opportunities, as well as growing their school’s network of local businesses.

The event came shortly after the WMCA highlighted which industries in the region were crying out for workers and how residents can join specific courses to help take advantage of over 50,000 unique job vacancies that are available.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, said: “The WMCA is keen to ensure local people are aware of the wide variety of employment pathways open to them at all ages and to make sure they are given the right support to build a successful career for themselves.

“These efforts can start at a school age and we want to equip teachers with the knowledge to suitably advise their students on the array of options out there after they leave formal education.

“The first West Midlands’ ‘Teachers Encounters’ event is a wonderful way to do exactly that - creating a bridge between educators and businesses so that students are as well informed as possible before they take the first steps in their career.”

The Teacher Encounters programme is driven by the Careers & Enterprise Company’s national network of Careers Hubs. They will be awarded dedicated funding for specific projects that engage their network of schools, colleges and employers.

Oli de Botton, chief executive of The Careers & Enterprise Company, said: “It is truly inspiring to see the work of our Teacher Encounters programme West Midlands. It highlights the genuine enthusiasm from business to better support schools and from teachers to support their students to take their best next step.

“Teachers are powerful sources of careers inspiration for young people - through the conversations they have and the curriculum they teach.  One of the ways we can support this work is through bridging the worlds of business and education and giving teachers meaningful encounters with employers.

“Done well, these encounters inspire teachers, students and employers. Teachers can see first-hand how local businesses work, including the routes in like apprenticeships. Students can benefit when teachers bring this insight into their lessons, linking learning to workplace skills. And employers can learn more about the workforce of the future.”

Dan Heffernan, strategic social value lead at Faithful and Gould commented: “During this period of economic uncertainty and against a backdrop of widespread workforce shortages, recruitment challenges and increased competition for people, we’ve got to accelerate our efforts to build a workforce fit for the future. It is therefore vital that businesses such as ours continue to work with the world of education in new and innovative ways, and together continue to empower and support future generations to build a legacy for themselves and those around them.

“We were delighted to be involved in the first Teacher Encounters pilot led by the West Midlands Combined Authority together with the Careers and Enterprise Company, recognising the fundamental role teachers have in preparing young people for employment.

“By taking teachers out of the classroom, and into our business, they were able to hear from our project teams first-hand about some of the incredible projects we are involved with around the globe. They heard about the plentiful roles available within our industry, and crucially what skills their young people need to possess in order to secure them.

“By working together, we were able to directly correlate what they teach in the classroom to what we do in industry, and we look forward to building on the relationships created in the months and years ahead.”

Cllr George Duggins, WMCA portfolio lead for skills and productivity and leader of Coventry City Council added: “Ensuring that educators are raising proper awareness of the different careers and pathways that are provided in the West Midlands, such as apprenticeships, is vital in creating the next generation of skilled workers that businesses want and need.

“This series of Teachers Encounters events sensibly establishes a deep relationship between local employers and schools so that students can make fully informed decisions about their future learning, training and career choices.”

The Teacher Encounters programme builds on policy proposals for careers awareness training for all teachers in the Government’s Skills for Jobs (January 2021) and Schools (March 2022) White Papers. Proposals echoed by Lord Blunkett’s recent Learning and Skills Report (October 2022).

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