It is about time we had some positive news!

I hope this blog reaches you well; specifically, teachers, Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Teams and those supporting the work of the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC). In light of the year we have had and challenges all have faced, I felt it was important to share some positive stories regarding some of the work we at Pathway CTM have been up to and to shine a light on the school-leaver space, and how things really aren’t too bleak…I promise!

This academic year, we have been working in partnership with the CEC, to offer support to the National and Regional broadcasts to students, working with the LEP’s in the process. This has been an ambition of mine since starting Pathway CTM six years ago, so I am delighted to share some of the highlights along with some positive Labour Market Information.

LEP Broadcasts

During the GCSE and A-level results period, we collaborated with LEP, D2N2, in delivering a virtual session highlighting to students in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire regions all the routes they could take. Local colleges, universities and employers such as Rolls Royce, were all involved for this fantastic event. The timing of this was so important, to guide students at a time when they were unsure and needed support. Hats off to the team at D2N2 for the quick response! Recording here.

At the time of writing this, we have just finished our ninth employer session with LEP, Thames Valley Berkshire, finishing the campaign with an excellent session with Virgin Media! Here we mixed up day and evening slots to ensure students, teachers and their parents could access live events (supporting Gatsby 5), and it has been fantastic for students to hear from local employers, and here is an example from one of our session with Vodafone, hosted by the brilliant Max from Pathway CTM! Recording available here.

Other highlights have been seeing the impact LEP Birmingham has had on parents with some of the initiatives we have been working on there. Parents and students logged on to hear from HSBC and the NHS in October – great event!  Recording available here.

My final LEP example I want to share is from the work done with Bucks – having pivoted their annual Bucks Skills Show to an online week of some 25 lessons, broadcasted in schools, with employers delivering every session. This has been a huge innovation and we were delighted to be supporting the week. Employers relating their jobs to the lesson subjects has been a revolutionary Gatsby 4 initiative that we expect will be scaled and used by many more over the coming months, and indeed years. Across the week we reached approximately 4,930 students in the Bucks region with the various lessons. My special shout out goes to Historic England and the History lesson I hosted, learning about the Battle of Britain and looking at photo archives, such great insight!  Look out for the Bucks Skills Show – Online 2021!

Positive news from employers

This leads me onto our own work with employers, all delivered online, with good and diverse attendances from students on the Pathway CTM Programme. I’d love to share our Virtual Work Experience Day with energy company, RWE. Students experienced a live tour of their power plant, using technology to showcase what goes on in a power station, with the ability to ask live questions as we went! This, alongside feedback from the RWE volunteers given to group work and presentations (using break out rooms), contributed sufficiently towards Gatsby Benchmark 6 and experiences of the workplace. While it might not beat physical work experience, it is these types of initiatives that we have to adapt to, and I would argue having 100 students access online work experience vs 10 students physically, is actually a positive story?

Pathway CTM has held National Skills Days every year for the past six years, and this October we moved this online. We wanted to take the opportunity to adapt too, and we had eight amazing employers all contribute towards the skills and knowledge students received on the day. With over 50% of employers using strengths based recruitment methods, a session from Cappfinity based around this was definitely one of the highlights. This year our partnership with Cappfinity enables free strength tests for Pathway CTM students to help them maximise their strengths in a period where knowing what you are good at and what makes you tick is arguably even more important in these uncertain times.

The key message I want to get across is that employers are either recruiting (with 64% of our employer partners opening their apprenticeship roles before Christmas – November being the most common month), or giving back in some way via skills and insights. A good example of this is the Financial Times setting up a virtual work experience programme that Pathway CTM students got to to help support in shaping – what a great opportunity for students! There may be less jobs across our economy at present, however recent research from the Institute of Employers (ISE) actually showed 6% more school and college leavers were hired in 2019/20 vs previous year (data correct as of October 2020).

We have learnt that employers who have been impacted most by Covid, have either pushed their 2020 cohorts back to January, or as a worst case, back to September 2021 (to add to the planned 2021 cohort, so doubling the cohort size in effect). So Pathway CTM is doing all it can to keep these students engaged, and ready to start their roles at the pushed back start dates. For those who are still deciding their 2021 intakes and not open yet, they have been involved in Pathway CTM online events to keep their brand out there and have all expressed an interest in doing the right thing and improving skills of our youth.

Moving forward:

The work I am seeing, and that we are proud to be involved in, from the CEC and LEP’s is showing true support and direction to our education workforce. The lobbying to ensure Gatsby Benchmarks can align to online delivery over Covid-19, and communicating the standardised message out to Careers Leads, this whole process helps put careers on one page of clarity.

Pathway CTM will continue to offer online employer interactions and initiatives. Such as webinars, virtual work experience days, application clinics and influencer online events. We are continuing to see more and more employer volunteers support our online outreach programme in schools and colleges so students, who need it most, are getting skills sessions with great insight from an employer to give context. I think we would struggle to have 100% employer involvement across our sessions, if these were not delivered online. Once again, emphasising the access students can get and the importance of teachers being able to set up their students for online success.

This is why we will continue to be supporting our teachers to tackle the challenges they face to deliver a successful and impactful blended learning environment for all. The monthly teacher webinars we are doing for partnering schools and colleges is something we are doing to help link teachers and employers and learn what we can offer to fill any gaps, around Gatsby benchmarks for example. I am inspired to see teachers still committing to joining webinars, even with everything they are juggling.

I am not an economist and cannot predict how businesses will be impacted throughout this pandemic. But I have worked in education for a while now, and I am speaking to employers, everyday who want to support skills and create opportunities for young people every way they can. This online world is exciting and schools, colleges and students are embracing the opportunities out there, long may this impact continue to grow.

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