Sharing the wealth: the value of employer outreach - TechTalent April 24
29 Apr 2024 by Joel Hard

Sharing the wealth: the value of employer outreach - TechTalent April 24

At a local level, employer outreach activities can work very well to enthuse young minds about STEM careers.

You don’t have to be a big brand to get involved: employers of any size can help students to discover that there are more careers available to them than they may have imagined. Some of those careers are (reasonably) future-proof and potentially lucrative.

Admittedly, the bigger brands have more wow factor. Earlier this year, McLaren Automotive Ltd took its spectacular hybrid Artura car to Newminster Middle School and spoke to 9-10 year olds about engineering and McLaren careers. As outreach activity goes, it’s pretty glamorous to be able to take a supercar on the road, but what’s powerful about this is that McLaren is speaking to children, going to schools as well as colleges and universities to show where STEM careers can take you.

STEM employers need to talk to children at a point in their lives where they can make the biggest impact; ideally way before they are thinking about GCSEs.

Recently, the daughter of one of our team came home from school excited and full of questions about engineering after an automotive composites firm came to speak to her year group. Prior to this, she had assumed that engineering was boring. It’s a familiar story.

Leading the charge

Some brands have nailed outreach. JLR has a multi-layered schools partnership programme comprising employee encounters, work experience and more, supporting over 40,000 students annually. It also has a virtual work experience programme that provides a deep insight into the brand’s “ecosystem,” delivered across a number of different modules, and a team of STEM ambassadors amongst its employees.

The JCB Academy is another great scheme; a facility dedicated to developing the engineers and business leaders of the future among year 9, 10 and 12 students and a learning ethos that combines theory with practice.

Social mobility: outreach and the opportunity gap

By engaging with a more diverse network of young people, can employers in the STEM sector expand their potential talent pool, strike a blow against essential skills shortages and champion social mobility?

I’m not suggesting that everybody can get into what are, after all, some very challenging careers. But the fact is, elite, competitive industries are often reserved for graduates from a limited pool of universities and social backgrounds, and if it’s done right, employer outreach can play a part in levelling the playing field.

One organisation taking this idea to a new level is Speakers For Schools, the charity whose stated mission is to “close the opportunity gap and level the playing field for all 11-19-year-olds from state schools and colleges by providing fair access to fully funded work experience and inspirational talks that will help them to reach their full career potential”. It empowers state school students to engage with over 1,300 UK employers, with funded work experience programmes, talk and broadcasts from professionals from a wide variety of careers.

On a similar theme is Volvo Group’s work with Daventry Hill School: an all-age special free school for children and young people with cognition and learning needs, where Volvo provides opportunities for mentoring, interview experience,  workshops and special projects.

Volvo’s website raises something critically important point about this: “Currently only 5% of students with Special Educational needs...enter full time paid employment, but many more have huge enthusiasm and skills that we would all benefit from.”

What any employer can do...

Engineering and technology employers face familiar challenges: unhelpful assumptions about technical careers, lack of diversity and lack of accessibility. But one of the most powerful things any employer can do is to help correct students’ own limiting beliefs about the reality of careers. Young people can assume they’re underqualified or have no aptitude for a job that contains just a small element of areas in which they are weak. I wonder how many are frightened away from STEM careers before they’ve been given a chance to have a go. You don’t have to be McLaren to help correct these assumptions.

At a local level, lots of employers collaborate with schools and colleges in inspiring and pioneering ways. But this activity still feels siloed and fragmented. We must keep recognising outreach as a crucial tool in engaging the workforce of the future, and encourage employers to share resources and opportunities to do so.

What caught our attention this month

CorPower Ocean has achieved a breakthrough in Wave Energy Conversion with its C4 Wave Converter – a device that can successfully withstand storms and generate power efficiently.

The former Britishvolt battery gigafactory site in northern England could become one of Europe's largest data centres, creating thousands of jobs locally.

The UK Infrastructure Bank and investors have formed a £100m fund to electrify hundreds of London’s buses.


Subscribe to our LinkedIn Newsletter, TechTalent, for news and opinions from the frontline of tech recruitment.