The number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) between January and March 2022 was estimated to be 704,000, according to the Office for National Statistics.[1] Young people need to have access to the tools they need when transitioning from post-16 education so they can prepare for the world of work.

This case study by Julie Young, Post-16 Advisor at Somerset County Council showcases how showcasing employment opportunities to young people in Somerset can help bring career teaching to life. By connecting industries with local schools, students can explore career opportunities they may have not previously considered.

A young black woman in the workplace holds a box containing a folder, colleagues around her are applauding.

Key Findings:

  • Employers often don’t know how to make links with schools to showcase their business.
  • However, once engaged, employers are then more open to engage in other initiatives.
  • Schools have limited time to make meaningful engagements with employers.
  • Communities are often not aware of the businesses within their local area and the range of jobs on offer.
  • The TalentEd Academy programme has flexed through the pandemic to enhance the original offer.

The Challenge we faced

As a rural county without its own University, Somerset has historically struggled to retain its young talent and workforce, especially in key sectors like aero-engineering and teaching. This programme was set up so young people understand future career and job opportunities on their own doorstep and to retain and grow its own local workforce.

Careers Education, Information, Advice & Guidance (CEIAG) delivered in schools is monitored for success through the Gatsby Benchmarks.  Benchmark 5 ‘Encounters with employers and employees’ has been of particular focus in recent years, with the aim of every young person having at least one ‘meaningful encounter’ with employers each year, from the age of 11.  A ‘meaningful encounter’ is one in which the student has an opportunity to learn about what work is like or what it takes to be successful in the workplace.

The challenge for schools is to have the resource and time to organise and deliver these encounters that meet that meaningful threshold.  This challenge became even more acute with the pandemic.

Somerset wanted to support schools across the county by providing regular opportunities for young people to gain these experiences.

Solution:

A project was developed between the Somerset EBP (Education & Business Partnership) and the South Somerset 14-19 Partnership to create a series of TalentEd Academy programmes which focused on a particular industry sector, accessible by students of any academic ability who had expressed an interest in this area as a possible future career.

An image split into two down the centre wth a white curved line. The left hand side has an orange background with the logo for Somerset Education Business Partnership. The right has a young woman working on a laptop in a circle above the TalentEd logo.

The Somerset TalentEd Academy aims to:

  1. inspire young people about careers in Somerset’s key employment sectors
  2. provide meaningful insight into the work environment in these industries

Initially, the project started with three TalentEd Academy programmes – Tomorrow’s Teachers, Aero-Engineering and Health/Nursing.  Across Year 10 and 11, twenty students per programme were provided with the opportunity to undertake 5 workshops with a variety of employers in that sector.

Talent Academies provided the opportunity:

  • To gain experience of the working environment
  • To meet the professionals, including senior business leaders
  • To gain personal confidence and develop communication and other key employment skills
  • To learn about the possible progression pathways and continued professional development opportunities from meeting those involved and hearing their ‘journey’ to where they are now.
  • To link Post 16 providers to future learners, giving them an opportunity to look at specific courses and local facilities
  • For students to link their present learning to post 16 and beyond… making it relevant and hopefully leading to improved performance in the classroom
  • To speak to Apprentices who are just a bit older than themselves
  • For students to build evidence for their Personal Portfolio (Record of Achievement)
  • To Upskill School staff who may accompany students, giving an opportunity for informal CPD, to network and see the students in a different environment.

Over the first three years of delivery, the programme was delivered across the County, focussing on key employers/sectors within each area of Somerset and broadened to include Digital Skills, Construction, Manufacturing, Renewable Energies, Creative Industry, Hospitality & Catering, Logistics and Local Government.

Impact of Covid-19 on the programme

When the pandemic struck, the programme had to adapt quickly. Doing this enabled many more young people to participate in the TalentEd Academy project.

Working closely with the Somerset EBP we moved the programme into a virtual format and created the TalentEd Academy online Insight briefings – a series of webinars and Q&A sessions with employers featuring local employers in specific sectors.  Each webinar consisted of a range of local employers working in a particular sector talking about the range of opportunities in their business, job opportunities, career routes, apprenticeship opportunities and qualifications needed for various roles.  Webinar typically had three or four employers, to try and demonstrate the breadth and opportunity within each sector.  Every briefing also focused on tackling gender stereotyping and promoting opportunities for those with disabilities whenever possible.

The TalentEd Academy is open to all learners via the online industry insights learning platform.

What was the impact of the programme?

Throughout the 2021/22 academic year we continued to create online virtual briefings, building on the sectors from the previous year and enhancing the offer.  The intention was to for each Industry insight to become a useful teaching resource in the classroom (or at home), which includes a mix of video content, quizzes, evaluations, and completion certificates.  For example, the Construction Industry Insight consists of:

  • A welcome to the construction industry insight
  • Utilities and Infrastructure – video briefing and quiz
  • Project management and planning – video briefing and quiz
  • Skilled Trades – video briefing and quiz
  • Evaluation

How are both the digital and in-person elements of TalentEd delivered?

Six pastel coloured dots make up the background of the TalentEd logo. Black text in front of these dots says 'TalentEd'

Each TalentEd Academy insight is ‘launched’ at a set date, to help build anticipation and to keep awareness of the series at the forefront.

The digital and in-person elements of the TalentEd Academy have both made demonstrable impacts on young people’s awareness of careers and future aspirations.

Evaluation data from the industry insights shows that prior to completing their insight 57% of participants knew ‘not much’ or ‘a little bit’ about the featured industry. After completing the insight 100% of learners felt they knew ‘quite a lot’ or ‘lots’.

Feedback from learners and teachers who previously attended on-site TalentEd Academy visits

Seeing the robotics was amazing, it’s incredible to think that they make 4,000 Henry vacuum cleaners a day!

Learner

I genuinely can say that all of the students valued the experience, they all identified how you looked after your staff and had positive and appealing rates of pay and training opportunities.

Teacher

What lessons did we learn?

The need to adapt the programme’s original face to face offer, because of the pandemic, made us rethink how we could continue to deliver meaningful employer engagements for young people in Somerset.  Happily, we have managed to create a format that has engaged a huge audience and has now become a go-to resource for our schools, parents, and employers.

Instead of just being an activity for a small group of students in a certain area of Somerset, the TalentEd Academy programme is now available to all and is regularly attracting large audiences.  We have helped to showcase local employers in a way never done so before and have found that the majority of those employers have now gone on to offer other interventions with schools and students.

The length of time to contact employers, arrange times for interviews and filming and prepare the briefing content can be lengthy and we have had to be flexible to work around availability quite often.

What are the next steps for the programme?

During the next academic year, we plan to retain the current open access industry insights and focus most effort on revitalising the in-person employer encounters that have been much reduced during the last two years.

Learning from experience to date we are proposing a change in delivery to the employer encounters.  Rather than visiting individual workplaces, we propose to hold employer led workshops featuring up to 4 industries at external venues.

We will host these workshops in different areas of the county, so each school is within a reasonable distance of a venue.  We would also create a template workshop enabling employers to introduce their company and create an engaging work-related activity for learners to take part in.  This allows us to create greater support for employers and greater consistency in the learner experience.  The industries featured at each workshop will depend on learner interest and employer availability.  Some employers may wish to attend all workshops, others may only be available at one.

To further enhance consistency and quality we propose to recognise employers’ time contributions with a small payment for developing their workshop and for delivery on the day.  This highlights the value we place on the work itself, whilst also recognising the value of the employers’ time.

Whilst schools are central to coordinating learner attendance, we recognise that parents are very influential in learner choices. We therefore also plan to pilot parent/employer Q&A sessions during this delivery period.

Read these similar posts on MyGovCentral to learn more about similar schemes and the latest updates concerning Youth Employment across the public sector.

[1] Office for National Statistics, 2022, Young people not in education, employment or training

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The number of young people not in education, employment or training in January to March 2022 was estimated at 10.4%. We heard from Julie Young, Post-16 Advisor at Somerset County Council, about how the TalentEd Academy programmes has provided young people with opportunities to explore future careers following education.

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