Following the recent publication of our Alternative pathways into the labour market report, it's clear that more needs to be done to raise the profile of and investment in vocational education. Increasing tuition fees and changing labour market dynamics means that for many young people, university is not the best option for them. At the same time, however, there is currently very little awareness about other routes into employment, such as apprenticeships or school leaver programmes, or indeed the full range of jobs that exist.

One way to address this issue is to enhance the provision of careers education and advice available to young people while they are at school. This is a key aim of The Careers and Enterprise Company, which was set up by the Government at the end of 2014 to inspire young people for the fast-changing world of work. The Company is seeking to join the dots in the fragmented landscape of careers and enterprise, supporting programmes that work, filling gaps in provision and ensuring coverage across England.

One of the key programmes spearheaded by the Careers and Enterprise Company to help bridge the gap between education and employment is the Enterprise Adviser network, which the CIPD has been supporting. This network is made up of a broad range of professional volunteers who commit their time to help support school teachers and leaders to develop a careers education strategy that taps into local businesses and employers. Volunteers are supported by full-time co-ordinators, who match them with schools and help them understand the range of programmes available nationally and locally, such as speakers in schools, CV and skills building workshops as well as work experience opportunities.

The programme is managed day-to-day by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), which were established under the previous Coalition Government to connect local authorities and businesses to help determine economic priorities and lead economic growth and job creation in the local area. It makes sense that a key step in delivering against this objective is to ensure that there are also strong connections between education and local businesses, to help ensure that young people entering the labour market are equipped with the necessary skills that employers need. This is where the Enterprise Adviser Network comes in, to help facilitate those connections and provide strategic support to teachers, who may otherwise have had very little experience outside of education.

The importance of making connections and increasing the number of encounters young people have with employers is particularly well evidenced. Research, conducted by the Education and Employers Taskforce, has found that young adults who encounter four or more employers while at school are, on average, 18 per cent less likely to be NEET (not in full time education, employment or training), than their comparable peers who had low levels of employer contact while at school. It’s also important for businesses, as reaching out to local schools and colleges can also help employers with recruitment and talent attraction, as young people might be inspired to make educational choices that will help set them up for a future career with their organisation.

The role of HR and L&D professionals

More than 140 CIPD members have already signed up to the Enterprise Adviser Network, and we’re hoping to reach out to 500 volunteers in England by summer 2017. The programme provides a unique volunteering opportunity that allows professionals to give back to local schools in a strategic way, whilst also developing their own skills and knowledge. Although the programme is open to volunteers from a range of professions and sectors, we believe that HR and L&D professionals are particularly well suited to the programme due to their skills and insights into the labour market. Many will have first-hand experience of recruitment or talent development, and will understand what the main challenges are from the employer perspective. They will also have some understanding of the many routes into employment – insight that is highly valuable to schools as they prepare young people for a successful future.

The CIPD is now looking for self-driven, passionate individuals who can commit to join this new and exciting programme, which should take up around 8 hours of your time per month. The Enterprise Adviser programme offers the chance to make a real difference in the local community whilst developing vital leadership skills. To get involved you can register your interest here or alternatively contact for more information.

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