Employer Engagement

Ofsted says 'Get more employers in school' Schools say How?

Monday 16th September 2013

One of the most effective ways of starting to get local employers involved in your school is to put on a professional interview day. This is a day when one of your year groups in KS4 or 5 get dressed up and attend an interview with a business person in the school hall. Used effectively, these events can generate both great PR for your school and be the start of very useful connections which can be utilised in other ways.

I can see the terror in your face already, hear the cries of 'Blimey that's a lot of work'. Well yes it is but it can be very worthwhile and gets easier year on year. Of course, you have the added advantage of reading Careers Defenders easy steps to professional interview day success.

The Easy Steps
1. Get SLT behind you. - You're doing something wonderful for the school, great PR, evidence for Ofsted of employer engagement, the latter of which is in the government action plan for development of good careers learning in schools. They may be able to allocate you some good admin support, that will make your job a lot easier.

2. Plan what you want from the day.

  • How many pupils need to be interviewed?
  • How many employers will be needed? (Allow 1/2 hour for each interview/feedback session, so 1 employer should be able to do 8-10 interviews in a day)
  • What is the expected outcome for pupils?
  • How will pupils be prepared?
  • What are the practicalities? Will it be a timetabled event during the school day or run as an optional evening or twilight activity? What level of hospitality will be required? Safeguarding etc

3. Sourcing employers - get together a list of contacts - names and email addresses are the easiest but make sure you get phone numbers too. Stick them in a spreadsheet like this one employer contact document This way you'll be able to keep an eye on who is responding and who isn't.

  • Staff contacts - your teachers, TAs, technicians etc have all got contacts, use them, get them to introduce what you're doing. One of my best contacts was a lawyer who employed our food technology technician's daughter as a receptionist. Discount nobody!
  • Governors - same as above.
  • Let parents know, they may have contacts or be in a position to help
  • Work experience placements - talk to whoever does your work experience, they will definitely have contacts.
  • Local authority contacts or local business advice centre/organisation
  • Local universities (see my pinterest boards for your local school contacts) may be able to help too.


4. Write an email or letter setting out what you want to do, what you'd like them to do and, most importantly, what's in it for them. One of the things they can do is use the activity as evidence towards a free quality mark called Youth Friendly Badge http://www.yeuk.org.uk/youth-friendly-badge-cc/ which was mentioned in The Work Foundation's report Beyond the Business Case - The Employers Role in Tackling Youth Employment http://impetus-pef.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Employers-Role-2-July-2013.pdf?utm_content=buffer965e5&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer Keep it brief and ensure that they can contact you simply and quickly. If they have to think about it, they'll put it aside to do later and it will fall off their to do list.

Image courtesy of Pong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Pong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
5. Send out letters/emails and allow 10 days or so for reply, schedule follow up emails for those who don't reply. Keep your spreadsheet up to date so you don't call people who've already replied. This is an ongoing process and can't be hurried the first time it's undertaken. In subsequent years it's a matter of contacting the previous year's participants and adding a few more to shake up the mix/replace those who can't be involved this year Don't forget to let the local paper know what you're doing, they may publish an appeal for businesses to take part and should be informed of the event so they can cover it.

6. Prepare students - get them to produce a CV/LinkedIn profile/Application form depending on your objectives. What lengths you want this process to go to vary from school to school but never lose sight that the purpose of this day is to give employers a great view of your pupils and your pupils a positive experience.

7. Allocate pupils to interviewer and send the prepared application documents to the employer in advance of the day so they can make notes if they wish. Ensure both applicant and employer know the time and place of the interview. I use another Excel sheet for this.

8. On the day,

  • Ensure each interviewer has printouts of the application documents and a simple feedback form to record the applicants strengths and areas of improvement.
  • If you are doing the day where pupils only come out of lessons for the interview, make sure you have a gopher to go and get people who have not arrived and thus minimise disruption of interviewers times. If pupils have to come in specially, eg for an after school event, ensure they, and their parents, know the importance of attending on time.
  • Get the pupils to fill in a feedback sheet about how they view the activity.
  • Get employers to do the same, include questions such as do they think that pupils were well prepared, any suggestions etc. This gives you areas of strength/improvement when reporting back to SLT

9. Write evaluation - You know SLT will want this. Also write to the employers and thanking

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
them, let them have a copy of the basic facts, eg 90% of pupils felt it was a great opportunity to practise and 89% feel more confident about interviews now. Make sure that the governors get a copy.

10. Sit back and bask in the glory!

If that all seems like too much work, I can help, just contact me for further information, no obligation.