How organisations can boost their talent pipeline by engaging with young people

By Patricia Mbangui, Centre Leader, IntoUniversity Walworth

Earlier this month it was National Careers Week which as well as providing careers guidance for young people is an opportunity to raise awareness of what organisations can do to support future generations.

Businesses are increasingly recognising the value of engaging in outreach programmes to address their skills shortages, build diverse talent pipelines and tackle growing inequalities in education and employment, as well as provide developmental opportunities for their employees.

Students who engage with businesses at an early stage can start to develop knowledge and skills that are valued in the workplace. Simultaneously, employees can strengthen their transferable skills through mentoring, guiding or training young people, as well as increasing motivation.

There is a dual argument for working with students based on corporate social responsibility and recruitment and retention. However, often firms just don’t know where to start. To address this I’ve co-authored a report with three other social enterprise leaders: Mayur Gupta, CEO, Career Accelerator; Christine Kinnear, CEO, With Insight Education; and Laura North, CEO, We Speak.

The report, ‘Connecting employers to students: a practical guide for engaging young people with the world of work’ by Teach First’s Student<>Employer Network offers advice on how UK businesses can build connections with young people.

Our aim is to address the growing concern at the lack of meaningful connections between schools and businesses, and how this debilitating inequality affects students and young people from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds the most.

The report seeks to change this by showing businesses how they can connect with young people in ways that will benefit their organisation, and at the same time boost employment opportunities for young people. Below are five key recommendations from the report:

Put Diversity & Inclusion at the heart of programme delivery – Organisations that embed diversity and inclusion successfully in their programmes are insight led, have examined their own diversity and inclusion data, acknowledged and addressed existing diversity gaps and ensured D&I is at the heart of their mission.

Invest in soft skills – Businesses could collaborate with schools, charities or social enterprises to run programmes with students so they can develop soft skills before they start work. Or run initiatives such as reverse mentoring programmes between students and colleagues which can help people develop soft skills. 

Assume you will always pay young people – Unpaid work opportunities can exclude young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Companies could offer paid part-time work for young people to broaden the opportunities open to them.

Widen the talent pool – A report from the Social Mobility Commission highlights that some industries focus on a small number of elite institutions for recruitment and fail to recruit talented young people from less advantaged backgrounds. Such barriers need to be recognised to generate change.

Increase workplace encounters with students – Students often don’t have enough meaningful encounters with employers. Equally, employers are often unaware of how to connect with students during the school day (usually during curriculum or pillar days). Companies could create pupil friendly sessions for curriculum days, offering workplace encounters to all year groups and developing contacts with career leads in local schools.

The Student<>Employer Network is running a webinar on Monday 25 April, 11.30am-12.30pm to show businesses how easy it can be to start engaging with students. To book a place, click here.

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