Connecting with young people is vital to the future workforce. Jade Pearson, new talent lead at Severn Trent offers advice for building an effective school outreach programme.
When we think about our future workforce the reality is those individuals are likely to be at school, college or university right now.
With businesses facing growing skills gaps, tight labour markets and emerging talent needs, now more than ever employers should be supersizing their outreach to connect, inspire and attract their future workforce.
Whether you’re starting from scratch or building on a current strategy, here are some top tips to build an effective school outreach programme:
1. Have a clear purpose
Start by asking why you want to connect with schools or colleges. Is it to raise the profile of your organisation and generate future applicants? To serve your community outreach and CSR activities? Or is it a blend of both or something else entirely?
Being clear on your purpose and the outcome you are trying to achieve will help you focus on activities and interventions that keep you true to the impact you are trying to make.
2. Get to know your future talent pool
Get to know the schools and colleges that exist across the geographies you operate in.
Are there opportunities to build a relationship with schools/colleges on your doorstep? Are there specialist technical training courses (NVQs, T-Levels etc) being delivered at colleges that align to your skills needs? Do you operate in areas of high deprivation where there are a higher-than-average proportion of students on free school meals?
By understanding the makeup of schools and colleges in your operating region, you can make more informed choices about the partnerships you make and the interventions you deliver.
3. Identify your target audiences
This is a brilliant opportunity to link your outreach and diversity strategies. Are you trying to drive social mobility and therefore want to target and work with students in areas of high deprivation? Are you wanting to connect with and inspire females into STEM careers?
By being purposeful with the audience you are trying to reach, you can measure the impact your outreach is having on your application and talent pipeline.
4. Build an effective toolkit
Design your toolkit. What do you want to offer and why? Is it attendance at careers fairs, career talks to year groups or creating access to meaningful work experience? Be clear on what you can offer and the impact you’re trying to make.
It might be valuable to have a blended toolkit. For example, an in-depth offer for a selection of schools/colleges that meet your target audience and purpose, and a light touch offer and resources available for everyone one else.
Explore your delivery method – do you have the resources and capability to deliver inhouse or do you need the help of an external partner? Whatever your delivery method, ensure you’re clear on the learning objectives and purpose of the offer.
5. Measure and evaluate
Be sure to ask for feedback and use a variety of measures and data points to evaluate the effectiveness of school outreach against your original purpose and success measures.
How many students have you connected with? Did their opinion of your business/sector change after an interaction with you? Are they more likely to consider applying to your organisation? Do they feel more confident in making an application with you?
These are all things that we should be keen to understand and learn from. These insights can drive outreach and selection going forward.
Ultimately, the time is now for us to build our future pipelines. So, what’s stopping you today?
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