From education to employment

Learner-led Employer Engagement

Most Colleges that I work with are rightly obsessed about putting their learners first. Making sure that the best interests of learners are right at the heart of everything they do.

Not many Colleges, however, use learners to help with their employer engagement and in my opinion are thereby missing a trick.

First, think about the work experience requirements of the Study Programme. That’s a lot of placements that need to be found and a lot of resource to do so. It may be, however, that by putting the onus on your learners to find their own placements you are actually able to secure more and better placements. Of course most students will need help and guidance before being able to pick up the phone by themselves. And, of course, not all students will be capable of finding their own. But those that can, should.

Students who find their own placements will generally have a greater commitment to that placement. As a result your participation rates will go up and your fail-to-attend rates will go down. Many students will also find placements for their friends, if only so that they don’t have to do the scary placement on their own. Most employers actually prefer to speak to the students directly rather than about them via an intermediary. And if you’ve equipped students sufficiently to find to their own work experience placement then you’re within striking distance of equipping them with the immensely valuable life skill that will enable them later to find their own way in the world when they finally finish at College or University.

Second, think about apprenticeships. A student who has successfully found their own work experience placement should fairly easily be able to seek out their own apprenticeship opportunity – perhaps even with the very same employer. But when it comes to apprenticeships, learner-led employer engagement is broader than just that. Everyone who’s ever tried cold-calling an employer to start a conversation about apprenticeships knows it can be very, very difficult. Instead of starting a conversation about apprenticeships, however, why not start a conversation about a real-life learner who’s got the right qualifications and who wants to work with that employer? You don’t even need to mention apprenticeships initially. Send over the learner’s CV, allow the learner to go for an interview and then – once the employer knows that he wants to employ your learner – then start a conversation about apprenticeships.

For example, explain that the learner is straight out of College; that the learner would benefit from some additional skills development; and that the learner actually wants a job that offers structured learning opportunities and additional qualifications. Employers will be far more willing to listen to you at that stage than at the beginning. And you may even get away without having to mention the lower apprenticeship pay rate which, in turn, will probably impact positively on your success rates.

Tom Millar is Managing Director at The REED NCFE Partnership who provide employability solutions designed to support your delivery. For more information contact 0191 605 3300.

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