The provision of career insights for secondary school pupils has caused much soul-searching. How do students form their career expectations? What do they understand of the jobs on offer in their local area, particularly in industry based away from residential areas? Do they know what skills and qualifications they will need to pursue such careers? How can the career aspirations of students be raised so they pursue studies which will best equip them for fulfilling and sustainable careers?
It was concerns like these which sparked a conversation between the Prince of Wales and executives of Tata Steel on a royal visit to the North East in 2010.
From that conversation, Tata Steel piloted an initiative called Industrial Cadets, designed to give pupils at local secondary schools an insight into their industry and the multiple roles that are involved in a busy manufacturing operation – not just the science and engineering roles but also the marketing, HR and other support roles.
These pilots led to a national roll-out of Industrial Cadets, which was launched by the Prince of Wales at Jaguar Land Rover’s base in the North West in January 2013. The initiative is co-ordinated by national education charity EDT with seed funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The first year has seen considerable expansion of the programme with many of the country’s major industrial companies taking part. During this time, Industrial Cadets has been honed into a flexible accreditation initiative for business/education linking programmes, with the objective of giving students an understanding of local industries and the career opportunities that those industries offer.
Industrial Cadets accreditation also ensures activities have a strong element of raising the aspirations of students and equipping them with key skills for the workplace environment.
What does it involve?
Industrial Cadets engages students with local companies for a series of activities and experiences. The design of the Industrial Cadet framework is flexible so that different programmes can be devised within it to meet the needs of the schools and companies involved.
Programme components will include company visits, project and problem-solving work, sector research, presentations, and the opportunity to interact with industry role models.
These components will be designed to develop skills and competencies, such as innovation and creativity, communication and collaboration, critical-thinking, careers awareness and motivation, digital skills, and personal and interpersonal skills.
A “cadetship” is accessible at Bronze, Silver or Gold level representing 20, 30 or 50 hours of activity respectively.
Approaches to Industrial Cadets
Airbus, based in Bristol, adapted an existing school linking project called Go4SET, run in conjunction with EDT, to meet the requirements of the Industrial Cadets framework. In the initial programme, launched on International Women’s Day, female mentors from different engineering sectors within Airbus were selected to work with girls aged between 12 and 14 from four local schools. Three were state schools and one from the independent sector.
Dr Carrie Rosser, STEM co-ordinator and physics teacher from Bristol Grammar School, said: “Participating in the Industrial Cadets programme has been a very formative experience for the girls involved. It has given them challenges which in many ways fall outside of their academic studies at school.
“They have developed the skills necessary to work independently and also collaborate as part of a team. Every pupil said they had enjoyed the experience and through our association with Airbus the world of engineering is better understood. Encouragingly, a significant number of the girls reported they are now more likely to consider a career in engineering.”
Elsewhere, a consortium of companies local to the Stoke area was co-ordinated through the Business in the Community Business Connector programme. The consortium included companies of a range of sizes and worked with two secondary schools in Stoke on a programme which was specifically designed by the companies and schools to meet the Industrial Cadets requirements.
Dilesh Parmar, acting head of Haywood Engineering College in Stoke, is keen that the initiative be continued: “It is important that students are aware of all the job opportunities open to them both nationally and locally. Industrial Cadets allows students to get under the skin of key local companies to find out how they really work. From this unique and inspirational insight, students can then make informed decisions about what GCSE options and further education courses to take to allow them to be successful.”
How can schools engage?
Industrial Cadet initiatives typically require the close co-operation of schools and local businesses. Effective and efficient engagement is always best achieved when a school and a business have agreed to collaborate; in some cases they are already working together on initiatives.
The schools that take part in Industrial Cadets commit to providing one or more link teachers whose responsibilities include managing the process through which students are selected to take part and then supporting and supervising students during their programme, evaluating their progress over time.
The companies involved will need to provide staff time in the form of mentors and role models, the former to support students in their projects and the latter to provide stimulating input that engages and inspires the students. Companies will make their premises available for site visits and, along with the school, will provide a contribution to the administrative costs of Industrial Cadets.
Where a school does not have an existing link with a company in their area, EDT can provide an introduction to willing partners if they are available, this will probably take longer to set up than where schools can source their own industrial partners.
Various “off the shelf” engagement models for Industrial Cadet initiatives are available, or EDT can work with schools and companies to develop programmes of activity that will work well for both the school and company and meet the accreditation framework for a particular level of the Industrial Cadet award.
Industrial Cadets can help the school to create and develop partnerships with industry as part of a national programme while at the same time offering:
Personal development opportunities for students.
Enrichment of the STEM curriculum.
The chance to change perceptions about industry and manufacturing.
Help for students to make informed decisions about study and career pathways.
The chance to boost employability skills and CVs.
CPD and accreditation for teachers.
Where next for Industrial Cadets?
Rapid expansion is planned for Industrial Cadets which will hopefully make it the foremost initiative combining skills development, work experience and careers insight. In many ways Industrial Cadets can be viewed as a redefinition of traditional approaches to work experience, providing students with a much wider range of experiences, activities and perspectives while still operating within tightly defined time periods and a structured engagement framework.
An active recruitment campaign is planned to bring many more companies on board with the initiative, providing opportunities for many thousands of students each year to graduate. The accreditation will have increasing value on their CVs as more employers recognise the skills and insights that taking part in Industrial Cadets activities provide.
Further informationFor more details, visit www.industrialcadets.org.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Penny Tysoe is the project director for the Industrial Cadets programme at EDT.
CAPTION: Royal backing: The Prince of Wales meets students at the Industrial Cadets launch at Jaguar Land Rover in Halewood (top), a student from Woodham Academy in Newton Aycliffe demonstrates part of her team’s display at a GSK Industrial Cadets event (above).