Local employers can be one of the best sources of advice and guidance for students thinking about their future careers. By engaging with businesses, schools and colleges can give their students ‘real-world’ work experiences, bring more relevance to their learning, and open their eyes to different career pathways. 

Morgan Sindall is a UK-wide construction and infrastructure business that has spent over ten years partnering with education institutions. Here, they talk about the value of industry-education partnerships, their initiatives to help students understand the full range of employment opportunities available to them, and the importance of positioning technical and vocational education and training (TVET) as a credible pathway into a fruitful career.

At Morgan Sindall, we work hard to maintain strong links with the local communities in which we work. In light of the widely recognised skills shortage facing the construction industry, one key area we focus on is the employability of young people. Through a range of initiatives, we work directly with schools, colleges and universities to introduce the world of work and highlight the potential career opportunities available across the sector.

A lot of activity in this area is organised and co-ordinated by our three enterprise advisors, who inspire next generation to explore careers across a range of sectors, including construction. We also have a dedicated team of registered STEM ambassadors, who have so far supported more than 7,000 young people through over 300 volunteer hours. 

As more and more employers are recognising the importance of engaging with students at all stages of the education journey, there is a real opportunity for schools and colleges to bring more relevance to their TVET programmes by utilising the skills and expertise of local businesses. Here, we offer some of the most effective ways we are working with schools and colleges as a source of inspiration for education institutions looking to connect with employers.

Practical advice and guidance

Many of our initiatives with schools and colleges focus on providing practical support to students by connecting with them in the learning environment. In this way, we can highlight the range of employment opportunities available to them within the construction industry and support them to build the necessary skills, aptitudes and attitudes employers across a range of different sectors expect from potential candidates.

We ask many of our construction managers, project managers, site managers and engineers to go into schools and colleges to give presentations about their roles and what they involve. Some of our younger employees also talk about their experiences and hold Q&As with the students. Through CV writing and mock interview sessions, we highlight the main responsibilities and characteristics employers are looking for, backed up by practical activities to develop key employability skills. 

Education challenges

Through challenge initiatives, we help schools and colleges deliver new learning experiences to develop young peoples’ skills and bring the world of construction to life. One such initiative is Constructionarium, which provides students with hands-on construction experience by asking them to build scaled-down versions of engineering projects from around the world. This initiative successfully links education with industry by forming partnerships between academic institutions, contractors and consultants, combining the academic, design and site delivery perspectives.  

As part of British Science Week in 2017, we challenged Year 7 students (aged 11-12) at St Benedict’s School, in Whitehaven, Cumbria, to develop their own proposals for sustainable colonisation of a new planet, considering water and waste disposal, energy production, transport, food production and construction. The project encouraged students to think about links between science, construction and the environment, and to assess their own environmental impact. The teams of students presented their proposals to business representatives, showcasing how they undertook research and developed their project management, communications and team working skills.

‘Throughout the duration of this project, the students showed a level of maturity well beyond Year 7. They worked well in teams and conducted themselves in a positive and professional manner. Presenting isn’t easy and being able to deliver with confidence in front of the head teacher, local businesses and peers was really impressive,’ says Gillian Johnston, a Morgan Sindall community investment coordinator who attended on the day.

Work experience opportunities

The opportunity to undertake quality work experience placements not only introduces young people to the world of work, but is a key part in helping them decide their future career. In 2017, we supported 170 days of work experience placements for 28 young people in the East of England. One of these students is Jack Chaplin, from Stowupland High School, Suffolk. He believes his three-week placement changed his mind about the course he was going to study at college, and he has since started his Level 3 in the Built Environment qualification at West Suffolk College, while also continuing one day a week work experience with Morgan Sindall to complement the theory he is learning. From an employer’s perspective, welcoming work experience students helps to widen the talent pool of entry level applicants, while giving young people the opportunity to demonstrate their ability and grow in confidence.

If you are an employer looking to build links in education, or are a school or college looking to collaborate with local businesses, a *practical online resource* featuring guidance and case studies is available from the Careers and Enterprise Company to support this process.

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