A programme to improve the employability skills and career aspirations of secondary school students in Leeds City Region has exceeded all targets by connecting more than 100 business leaders and over 130 schools since February 2016.

The Leeds City Region’s Enterprise Adviser initiative, which is on track to facilitate 26,000 interactions between employers and young people from September 2016 to the end of this month, brings real and regular business experience to students 11 to 18 years old by recruiting leaders in business to work, voluntarily, with senior school leadership to shape the schools’ careers and employment strategy.

Handpicked by the Cabinet Office as one of only five pilot programmes UK-wide, the success of the initiative in Leeds City Region has since seen the roll out of the programme in 34 additional regions across the country.

Managing Director of cyber security consultancy Agenci and founder of the annual Cyber Security Europe conference, Gary Hibberd, has been working in partnership with Wakefield school Castleford Academy to deliver an innovative programme of employer activity for the school’s 1,200 students to raise awareness of career opportunities in this rapidly growing sector.

Demand for skilled workers in the cyber sector has increased by 20% since 2015 in response to a significant rise in cyber attacks globally with the UK government reporting over 180 Advanced Persistent Threats (APGS) on national infrastructure every month. Since December 2016, Gary has strategically devised a range of workshops, conferences and talks including: holding mock interviews, delivering an information technology (IT) conference and running workshops with teaching staff on making cyber more accessible.

Gary said: “I joined the programme because I want to build the next generation of cyber citizens.

“The digital sector is starting to see roles, not just in cyber security, but in highly specialised facets such as cyber criminology and cyber psychology. It’s crucial that we educate our City Region’s young people; both in the dangers of living online but also in the wealth of fantastic career opportunities digital has to offer.

“As an Enterprise Adviser I’m able to directly influence the curriculum by helping Castleford Academy to develop a careers strategy that is led by business, not only providing our future employees with access to employers but also allowing me to raise awareness about a vitally important sector of which I am truly passionate about.”

Other business leaders who have joined the initiative include Kerry Nelson, Head of Human Resources and Administration at Lidl UK, part of the global supermarket chain, who became an Enterprise Adviser for Boston Spa School in north Leeds in early 2017.

Working with the Assistant Headteacher, Liz Tuchmann, Kerry has created an ambitious programme of employer interactions for the school’s Year 8 to 13 students to raise awareness of the many, and often global, employment opportunities available to young people with language qualifications.

Kerry’s activity has so far included business mentoring for Year 10s and work-readiness workshops for 130 Year 8 students. More than 450 other Boston Spa pupils will benefit from employer engagements over the coming year.

Liz Tuchmann, Assistant Headteacher and Science Teacher at Boston Spa School, said: “The Enterprise Adviser programme has enabled us to give students first-hand experience of the world of work. Having Kerry working with the school ensures we provide relevant, up to date information on the local labour market and job opportunities. I am looking forward to the events we have planned and know our students will gain valuable support to prepare them for the world of work.”

Edward Jennings, of award-winning process engineering design house Manrochem, was recruited to work with Calderdale-based Rastrick High School to combat the school’s challenges with soft skills through regular and inspiring contact with a number of local science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) employers.

He has already begun, in collaboration with a range of partners such as Jobcentre Plus and the Diana Award, to deliver a series of workshops on building transferable skills for Rastrick’s Year 8 students as well as a programme of continued professional development (CPD) sessions to raise awareness of vocational qualifications such as high-level apprenticeships.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Skills lead for the LEP and Leader of Bradford Council said: “We have a great industrial heritage and we have ambitions become a city region renowned for its strengths in financial and professional services, manufacturing and engineering and digital and to do so we must ensure we have a talent, skilled population to meet demand.

“Research shows us that four or more employer engagements will increase a young person’s earning potential by 18% compared to those who have had no employer interactions. Unquestionably then, connecting great education to the inspiring and entrepreneurial business base we have in the region is a fundamental element of our employment and skills plan for the City Region.

“By providing a platform, like the Enterprise Adviser Network, for brilliant business leaders such as those above to access schools we can inspire the next generation to become the skilled and prosperous workforce we need.”

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