From education to employment

England’s school careers chief hails “exceptional” Cheshire and Warrington partnership linking employers with young people

Oli de Botton

The man who leads England’s school careers education told a major skills conference he was “truly inspired” by a trailblazing partnership that links Cheshire and Warrington businesses with students of all backgrounds to prepare them for the world of work.

Oli de Botton, CEO of The Careers and Enterprise Company said the work of The Pledge Partnership which connects all 86 schools and colleges in the region with 550 businesses was “exceptional” and is “magnifying the impact on young people”.

The glowing endorsement came at the “Bridging the Gaps” Cheshire and Warrington Pledge Partnership & Careers Hub Annual Conference 2023.

Attended by more than 200 delegates, the conference explored how employers, educators and other key local stakeholders can work further together to address local priorities based around three key themes, Skills, Inclusivity and Opportunity. 

And those attending the event at Alderley Park heard the great strides being made through support from The Pledge Partnership which includes Cheshire and Warrington Careers Hub.

The trailblazing network addresses skills and employment gaps, supports careers planning and gives students from all backgrounds meaningful access and experiences with employers so they are ready for the world of work.

Underpinned by the Gatsby Benchmarks, a framework that promotes careers education excellence, the Cheshire and Warrington Careers Hub runs innovative tailor-made projects.

These include students being interviewed by genuine recruiters at Mock Assessment Centres, multiple careers fairs attended in 2023 alone by 263 exhibitors and almost 6,000 people, and even Teacher Encounters which allow school staff to engage directly with employers to explore student career pathways relevant to their subjects.

Cheshire and Warrington Careers Hub is part of a national network of 45 Careers Hubs funded through the national body for Careers Education, The Careers and Enterprise Company.

And its CEO, Mr de Botton was wax lyrical about the way businesses and education providers were being supported and able to work together to benefit future generations.

He told the conference: “What you are doing here is truly inspiring.”

The work of The Pledge Partnership and Cheshire and Warrington Careers Hub, he said, was “magnifying the impact on young people” and added: “I have been blown away by the exceptional work that is going on in Cheshire and Warrington to help every young person find their next best step.”

He also told the conference that working “collectively” was crucial and “teachers and parents need to be part of the conversation”.

‘Raising standards’

Statistics unveiled at the conference revealed more than 25,000 young people in Cheshire and Warrington a year were benefitting from the network which was not only seeing more students snapping up exciting jobs locally but raising careers education standards across the region.

The conference was told that on average Cheshire and Warrington schools have fully achieved 5.5 of the 8 Gatsby benchmarks, which is above the national average. While the 21 schools it had prioritised in disadvantaged areas had achieved even higher averages – 5.8 out of 8.

The benchmarks include enabling encounters with further and higher education and employers, experience of workplaces and linking the curriculum to careers.

Evidence shows the better the quality of careers education the more likely a person will flourish after leaving school or college – particular those who face barriers.

Young people played an active part in inspiring the audience throughout the day.

A panel of inspiring young people showed how experiences of working with employers had helped them to overcome barriers and achieve their potential, including an apprentice at Bentley who said she now runs a ‘Girls into Engineering Day’ having been inspired by attending a similar event.

Delegates also enjoyed catering supported by students from Petty Pool College.

Other speakers at the event on Thursday, June 29, included Clare Hayward MBE, chair of Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership – which parts fund The Pledge Partnership.

She said the growth of The Pledge Partnership from a small pilot project in Crewe in 2016 to covering the whole of Cheshire and Warrington today was “phenomenal. 

The need to address the “attainment gap between our disadvantaged and advantaged students” was among priority areas but she stressed said people could be “rightly proud” of the work so far.”

Clare, who also chairs the NP11 – a business-led voice for the North that brings together the 11 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) across the North of England – added: “We are now seeing more and more young people successfully securing jobs with our local employers who are working with us to inspire the next generation. You now have the opportunity to consider what you can do to bridge the skills gaps, opportunity gaps and disadvantage gaps.”

The event gave business, education, community and voluntary organisations opportunity to share practice through workshops and hear presentations including sessions from employers, education, South Cheshire Chamber and Warrington Borough Council, Cheshire East Council and Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Grace Sheldon, Strategic Hub Lead said:

“There has been exceptional progress, and this is down to the commitment of everyone from careers leaders in schools developing their provision to local employers providing meaningful experiences of the world of work.”

The Pledge Partnership is calling for more local employers to help inspire the next generation. 

CAPTIONS: Oli de Botton: CEO of The Careers and Enterprise Company, Oli de Botton was full of praise speaking at the “Bridging the Gaps” Cheshire and Warrington Pledge Partnership & Careers Hub Annual Conference 2023 at Alderley Park.

Clare Hayward MBE, chair of Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership speaking at The Cheshire and Warrington Pledge Conference 2023

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