Enabling Enterprise’s Simon Hill explores the reasons behind four employers’ commitment to working with primary schools in response to a recent CBI and Business in the Community report.

Last year, the CBI and Business in the Community published Principles and Practices for Primary Engagement to help employers seek and support best practice when working with primary schools. Starting Young is one of Enabling Enterprise’s core principles, which is why our work begins in Early Years and carries on all the way through to sixth form.

CBI President Paul Drechsler sums it up: “Primary school is where we lay the groundwork for a person’s life, on which everything else is built. We need to give younger pupils every opportunity to find out more about the world around them and future possibilities to set them up well for secondary school.” The report covers the drivers for employers to engage with younger students:

  • Social impact
  • Investing in UK plc
  • Developing their own future workforce
  • Engaging the current workforce
  • Brand and reputation.

The report offers principles for businesses seeking to work with primary:

  • Understand the school environment
  • Begin with the school’s needs
  • Identify what you can offer
  • Build effective relationships
  • Evaluate the impact.

Enabling Enterprise is just one of the examples featured in the report. Established by teachers in a London secondary school in 2009, the EE team was soon being asked regularly by school leaders, “What about the younger students?” A core set of primary programmes is now a key part of our work nationally, combining engaging lesson time projects with whole school challenge days in school, and inspiring visits to over 110 employers across all sectors. Something we hear all the time from the inspiring volunteers who work alongside Enabling Enterprise students during EE workplace visits is “Why wasn’t this around when I was at school?”

So, what do some of Enabling Enterprise’s employer partners think? We asked international law firm Eversheds Sutherland, UBS bank, Real Estate firm JLL and Brewin Dolphin Investment Management.

Eversheds Sutherland: Unlocking Talent

‘Unlocking Talent’ is the theme that unites Eversheds Sutherlands Corporate Responsibility programme. Tony Ramos, Diversity and CR Manager says “this refers both to our own people and those that we work with in our communities. As an organisation dependent on a talented workforce, we recognise the vital importance of education.”

Eversheds Sutherland first hosted visits for Enabling Enterprise primary schools in Nottingham, but now hosts regular visits for Enabling Enterprise schools in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Cambridge. These visits build on a core set of eight skills the students are learning back at school, and give students the opportunity to work on a fast-paced legal challenge supported by Eversheds Sutherlands volunteers.

“The partnership provides us with the opportunity to deliver real social impact and unlock the potential of students. It also provides us with an opportunity to build engagement and capability with our employees,” says Tony. Daniel Jackson, an Associate in Nottingham adds, “I got involved with Enabling Enterprise as it sounded like a great opportunity to help local children in a truly unique and creative way – and it didn’t fail to live up to my expectations!”

UBS: Impact and engagement

Sarah Craner, Community Affairs Director at UBS puts it like this: “Enabling Enterprise’s school approach enables UBS to reach significant numbers of pupils whilst also achieving deep impact in schools based in disadvantaged areas.” The employee engagement perspective is important too, as Catherine Lenson, Managing Director and Senior HR Business Partner, who worked alongside primary pupils on a recent visit to their offices reflected: “What a positive, inspiring way to spend a half-day! Such an eye-opening experience to meet students and teachers in this environment, and a great way to practise my coaching and facilitation skills.”

JLL: Building a better tomorrow

International property firm JLL is one of a number of firms in its sector keen to access future talent from as wide a pool as possible. Like Eversheds Sutherland, they see engaging with primary schools as part of a wider commitment. Neil Worrall, a Director at JLL explains. “We understand that our business will become more successful if we can attract new employees from as diverse a talent pool as possible.”

“By bringing primary school children into JLL, we are able to share our passion for real estate and hopefully inspire the children to join us in the future. We are also conscious that the property sector, and the variety of roles available, is not currently a high profile sector. By working with Enabling Enterprise as part of our Building a Better Tomorrow programme, we have the opportunity to make the children aware of the role property can have on their communities and the environment.”

Brewin Dolphin: Investing in the future

Rosie Richardson-Aitken, Corporate Responsibility Manager at Brewin Dolphin Investment Management says, “we see the support we are giving EE as investing in the future of business and society. Building positive relationships between businesses, schools and pupils from an early age helps raise aspirations. It gives children exposure to a wide range of opportunities and career options in a way that wasn’t always available in the past.”

Rosie adds, “offering volunteering is relatively new to Brewin Dolphin and being able to encourage our employees to work with younger students is an excellent way to introduce them to the benefits of volunteering. EE guides and supports our volunteers, which allows them to learn new skills, meet new people and work with audience groups they may be unfamiliar with.”

What the teachers say

School leaders echo this. At St Francis de Sales in Tottenham, North London, for example, Headteacher James Lane talks about his pupils’ involvement with Enabling Enterprise and the employer visits they have made as being key to helping them “think beyond their horizons. I see this as very much the role of schools. It’s more than just knowledge acquisition – there is something there about raising aspirations and developing skills.”

At Old Moat Primary in Manchester, one of Enabling Enterprise’s newest “whole school” partners, Headteacher Sally Lamb emphasises the real-world links as key: “The visits are inspirational and aspirational – I want all the children in my school to think ‘I could work here… I belong here’. Working alongside the volunteers is fantastic and unique to Enabling Enterprise. The Business trips tie everything together – the Challenge skills we focus on in class become real. They come back to school motivated and informed.”

Year 5 students from Gilbertstone Primary in Yardley, Birmingham, recently visited Eversheds. Year 5 teacher, Nasreena Hussein, describes how working with Enabling Enterprise supports the school’s teaching and learning:

“…the reason we continue to work with Enabling Enterprise is the fact that our programme is so well-resourced, whilst striking the balance of giving flexibility whilst offering support.”

“The children absolutely love it – everything they do with Enabling Enterprise is purposeful, they all know about the challenge skills, and it allows them to be creative and take ownership of their work, which can be difficult to embed with the curriculum and timetable constraints.”

Of course, it doesn’t stop there for the tens of thousands of students on EE’s Primary programmes. Enabling Enterprise’s Secondary programmes continue to develop and reach more students each year too, building on the skills students will need, as well as bringing in relevant information about routes into different sectors and employers.

For the EE team of teachers – those that established the first programme back in 2009 and the team that have joined since then – the core principles of our work include: start early and keep going, keep practising and bring it to life – the first two so relevant in primary school and beyond, the last supported by a network of committed employer partners.

As Daniel Watson, Assistant Head at Coopers School, a Secondary in Kent, says: “The reasons we do Enabling Enterprise are all the ones I share with students in assemblies… that these skills are going to be essential to them whatever they choose to do when they leave school, and that qualifications on their own aren’t enough. They need the opportunity to develop these skills.”

For further information about Enabling Enterprise visit www.enablingenterprise.org or email simon.hill@enablingenterprise.org

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