David Leadbetter, the Careers and Employment Engagement Manager talks in depth about the work we do on behalf of the Careers & Enterprise Company, and the LEPs in Cumbria and Lancashire.

Research tells us that exposure to employers and understanding the world of work has a positive effect on young people. It helps to raise their aspirations and encourages them to make positive life and career choices, making them less likely to become NEET (not in education, employment or training).

As a result, Inspira is trying to encourage employers to engage with young people and educational institutions such as schools and colleges.

The Government’s Careers and Enterprise Company is a national network designed to inspire and prepare young people for the fast-changing world of work. Their role is to connect schools and colleges, employers and careers programme providers to create high-impact careers opportunities for young people across England.

There are two core programmes – the Enterprise Adviser Network and the Employer Mentoring programme. In our employer engagement work these two initiatives are key to helping build sustainable connections with employers and educational intuitions.

Our role is to identify schools, academies and colleges looking for greater opportunities, and assisting them to develop a careers service with input from business leaders, who bring with them their networks and contacts. We support them to work together and offer training and development.

We are currently working with 72 schools and employers in Lancashire, and 36 in Cumbria; by the end of the current academic year other matches will be complete to hit our current targets.

From a time investment point of view, employers spend eight hours a month supporting their matched institutions. In Cumbria we have BAE Systems, Balfour Beatty, the NHS, and Jacob’s in Whitehaven, to name a few who are already signed up. While in Lancashire, we again have Balfour Beatty, Calico, Crown Paints, and BAE.

The return the company gets for their time investment is helping to develop a future workforce who understand what the career and work opportunities are, as well as equipping them with realistic expectations of the work place and a grounding in important employability skills.

We have some really big organisations on board but we are also looking for small entrepreneurial companies, new start-ups and self-employed people. We want cross fertilisation of people working together from all backgrounds and all businesses pulling together.

As we come to the end of the first year, we can see that the programme is working really well. Going forward we want to sustain and develop these relationships and see the curriculum strengthen.

The second big initiative is the Employer Mentoring programme – which started this year and again covers both counties. Each mentor works with a maximum of three students on an individual basis. The mentor and mentee meet once a month for a 30-minute focused session, giving the mentee the opportunity to discuss plans, not just with their teacher, parents or carer but someone from outside their familiar circle.

Mentees can be those who are struggling with the educational system, or pupils who are doing well at school and could be motivated to think outside the box by working with inspirational people who challenge them. Whatever their situation, it is about matching them with the right mentor.

Big businesses such as Network Rail, Lloyds Bank, Lancashire Network Rail and Armstrong Watson are all supporting this initiative, which is good for the headlines but we also want smaller organisations to get involved too.

There is a lot of future workforce potential in Cumbria and Lancashire and while it can sometimes be easier for businesses to look outside the area for recruitment, we would encourage them to find out more about these initiatives and how they could help future recruitment.

Find out more about our Enterprise Adviser Networks and Employer Mentoring programme and register your interest by completing the form on either page.