An update from the Careers & Enterprise Company

Written by: Claudia Harris | Published:
Image: iStock

​The government has funded the creation of the Careers & Enterprise Company in a bid to answer that age-old careers question – just how can we bring education and employers together effectively. We invited CEO Claudia Harris to update us on their work so far

Different priorities and timetables mean that employers and schools can face a series of barriers in their efforts to get young people ready for today’s fast-changing world of work.

While many employers think work experience is critical when recruiting, most do not offer it and most secondary school pupils have never been off site to visit a local employer – despite the best research showing that multiple encounters with work are critical to future job prospects and earnings.

This is not because of a lack of good will on both sides or a lack of excellent work experience and skills programmes.

Instead, the evidence points firmly to the practical challenges of effectively linking the worlds of work and education. These sectors often speak different “languages” and so what’s needed is better communication and coordination between them.

It is our role at the Careers & Enterprise Company – the organisation I lead – to tackle these issues. We work to join the dots in careers provision to bridge the gap between education and employers.

We understand that the process of connecting with local employers is not as easy as it should be for already busy teachers. Equally, we recognise that busy employers may not always have the time or the practical knowledge on how to engage with local schools. That is why we established our Enterprise Adviser Network.

The network is the backbone of the Company. It joins individual Enterprise Advisers – senior business volunteers – with headteachers and senior leadership teams in schools and colleges.

Once in post they provide strategic counsel, develop career engagement plans and build relationships with local businesses as well as local employers and careers and enterprise providers.

In less than a year of operation we have recruited more than 1,000 Enterprise Advisers from organisations of all sizes across the private, public and third sector. They are already working with almost a third of secondary schools across the country.

Each Enterprise Adviser aims to commit one day per month for a minimum of a year with their schools. Almost 40 per cent of them are at chair or CEO level and at a conservative estimate this is worth the equivalent of £11 million of consultancy time this year. We predict this will rise to the equivalent of £50 million of value in the second year of operation.

Not only do the Enterprise Advisers provide invaluable insight into the local labour market, but they are well placed to engage employers, understand offers from service providers and support schools and colleges in designing and developing career engagement plans to increase opportunities for students to have exposure to the world of work.

The results to date have been very encouraging. There has a three-fold increase in employer engagement in plans among schools and colleges that have joined our network – from 15 per cent of schools with plans in place to 45 per cent.

We also know that this approach works. The evidence makes clear that if young people have multiple high-quality experiences of the world of work – which the Enterprise Advisers help provide – they are more likely to be employed and will earn significantly more (18 per cent) during their career.

In return, our Enterprise Advisers can take satisfaction from knowing that they are making a hands-on difference to the development of our young people by giving them inspirational life-changing experiences while addressing many of the concerns around motivation and skill development often highlighted by the business community.

The network is underpinned by our Enterprise Coordinators, full-time, paid employees co-funded by the Careers & Enterprise Company and the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) – and to date, we are live in 38 out of 39 LEPS.

In a congested school day, the Enterprise Coordinators make a real difference. Working with the LEPs they help to ensure that the aims of career engagement programmes are set in stone, giving young people a clear series of goals to reach.

What is clear from the work that we are doing is that there is no shortage of willingness to improve the lives of young people through better employer engagement.

This is of course not without its challenges and will require the on-going cooperation of education and business if we are to embed radical long-term change.

Case study: Enterprise Adviser Network

Antonio Tombanane, Enterprise Adviser

When the opportunity to work with Sirius Academy came up through the Humber Education Business Partnership we took it with both hands. At Designs Signage Solutions, we are passionate about working with the education sector. As a business we continue to be the critical friend that the academy needs, bringing a lot of business input into what they do and helping the students get exposure to the world of work. The work that we do with them also helps our business massively, boosting confidence among our staff. It is incredible how the business community can integrate with the education community to make a difference in a student’s life.”

Antonio’s top tips:

  • Both parties should have a focused approach and goal on what you want achieve.
  • Communicate as much as you can with the Enterprise Adviser.
  • Have an open mind to learning new things from the Enterprise Adviser.

Sirius Academy North, Hull:

It was apparent from the start that Antonio would be a brilliant asset for any school. He has a wide range of business contacts in the region and is passionate about the way in which business/education links can help to improve the life chances of students from the area. Antonio has been invaluable – as a critical friend reviewing our careers and development plans and working with the academy on a large range of projects from involvement in the Hull City of Culture 2017 to Greenpower electric racing. Antonio also works with groups of student on business challenges designed to improve their employability skills.”

Sirius Academy North’s top tips:

  • Effective links are a two-way process which should involve mutual support and shared expertise.
  • Don’t overpromise, start with a manageable project and maintain regular contact.
  • Businesses should be regarded as members of the school community, not an “add on”.


  • Claudia Harris is the CEO of the Careers & Enterprise Company.

Enterprise Adviser Network

If your school wants to get involved by joining the network, visit www.careersandenterprise.co.uk/get-involved for more information.

The Careers & Enterprise Company

The Company was set up by the government to identify and tackle gaps in careers advice and guidance across England. Among its initiatives is the Enterprise Adviser Network described above and the £5 million Careers and Enterprise Fund, created to increase the number of encounters young people have with employers. The Company is also co-ordinating the government’s national mentoring campaign to target pre-GCSE teens at risk of disengaging. Visit www.careersandenterprise.co.uk


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