Social enterprise and skills training provider Ahead Partnership has brought together young people with senior business leaders and private sector partners from across the region to celebrate their most successful year of skills activity to date. 

Almost 100 representatives from across a range of business sectors descended on the iconic Leeds Art Gallery to champion the organisation’s 2018/2019 achievements and hear more about the exciting projects in the pipeline for the year ahead, which includes further geographic expansion across the UK.

Ahead Partnership highlighted a phenomenal year, working with a total of 56,681 students and mobilising over 3,300 business volunteers through 439 separate careers and skills events. The year got off to flying start for the organisation following the receipt of funding to support 27,000 students across Bradford and Doncaster through the Government’s “Opportunity Area” programme, allowing Ahead Partnership to accelerate their work in these regions. Ahead Partnership has also made important inroads into delivering initiatives to students with SEND (Special Education Needs and Disability), a programme they’re looking to accelerate in the 2019/20 academic year.

Ahead Partnership’s work heavily relies on the support of businesses who wish to work collaboratively with education providers to deliver highly beneficial skills and career activities for young people and in 2018/2019 alone, the organisation received the support of over 700 different businesses from a vast range of sectors.

Stephanie Burras CBE, CEO of Ahead Partnership said:

“The feedback we’ve had from the students who have taken part in these initiatives has been fantastic, and there are provable links between delivering workplace initiatives and raising aspirations of young people. opening up opportunities and showing students what their future career prospects can be is hugely rewarding and I must pay testament to all our employer and education partners who have helped ensure the year has been such a success. We’re now intensifying efforts and have already seen a number of new organisations indicate their desire to get involved. 

“We look forward to putting our future plans into action and working with even more employers over a wider national geography including Portsmouth, Glasgow, Kent, Oxford, Newcastle and more.”

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Executive Member for Learning, Skills and Employment at Leeds City Council, also championed the objectives of Ahead Partnership’s work, adding:

“It’s hugely important to develop the talent pool as the city grows, helping to meet council objectives around inclusive growth. Ahead Partnership have become a very respected name in delivering these vital skills initiatives, not just in Leeds but across the country.

“I was delighted to be able to speak at their event and discuss some of the programmes we are working with the organisation on, particularly our #SustainableXmas initiative which launched this month. Seeing the business community get firmly behind the Ahead Partnership team was heartening to see.”

Ahead Partnership launched several highly successful new sector-specific schemes throughout last year to address regional skills challenges and to drive interest amongst young people in the built environment, digital and financial and professional services industries. A multitude of new reputable cross-sector corporate partners have been involved in these schemes including MEPC, Caddick Group, NHS Digital, DAC Beechcroft and West Yorkshire Bus Partners, with further sector specific activity planned for the year ahead.

The organisation has also increased their focus on supporting SEND students, introducing a new test and learn project with the Lighthouse School in North Leeds which saw the two organisations work in partnership to develop a whole-system employability and transition approach to activities of this type, which meets all the requirements of the Gatsby Benchmarks and the needs of young people with autism. 

Attendees at the celebration event heard from a range of panellists from Leeds City Council, Bradford Council, MEPC, Homes by Strata and White Rose Shopping Centre, who reflected upon the profound impact that engaging young people and raising awareness about employment opportunities has upon their individual organisations and the region. The business leaders were joined by student and teacher representatives who were engaged in last year’s activities and shared their exciting experiences participating in the career’s activities and the impact the initiatives have had on their career aspirations. 

At the event, the organisation introduced a number of key projects in the pipeline, with an amplified commitment to closing the North – South divide, improving social mobility in disadvantaged areas and working towards Educating The North’s ambitions to help mentor and provide career support to 900,000 students every year. 


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