Brian Lightman, who stood down from his role at the ASCL last month, is now a board member helping develop the employer-led, government-backed Careers & Enterprise Company. He explains here how it can help colleges link-up better with employers for the benefit of their learners.

Improving destinations for young people continues to be a key concern for all FE institutions.

Of course, this isn’t a simple task. However, research has found at least one factor that can have a huge impact.

Our aim is for
every college to have its own adviser to galvanise local programmes and employers and make it simpler for them to engage

Young people who have multiple encounters with businesses before they leave education are significantly less likely to become NEET (not in education, employment or training) and earn, on average, 18 per cent more than their peers who have not.

While this is encouraging, and some colleges, as well as schools, do have strong links with business, it’s clear that this is not happening consistently across England.

This is the primary reason for the launch of The Careers & Enterprise Company, to simplify the process for local businesses and education providers to work together.

The difficulty in establishing relationships with local business is made worse by the lack of consistency of experiences across England.

As you may have found, some colleges are inundated with offers from careers and enterprise services and employers, while others have none.

But this doesn’t stem from a lack of commitment.

The many conversations the Careers & Enterprise Company’s board and staff have had, have highlighted employers’ commitment to working to address the skills gaps, and we’ve had a really excellent response from businesses of all sizes since we launched.

The company’s role, therefore, is to improve the interface between education and businesses to allow pupils to progress to worthwhile and meaningful routes that lead, at the right time, to employment.

To do this, the company created the Enterprise Adviser network.

This brings together senior business volunteers and education providers and is being co-led with local enterprise partnerships (LEPs).

Our aim is for every college to have its own adviser to galvanise local programmes and employers and make it simpler for them to engage.

The network also has no cost, making the tremendous resource totally accessible to colleges.

High quality mentoring is another important part of delivering the full scope of the careers provision and in the spring we’ll be announcing our strategy around mentoring.

One of the very exciting aspects of the Enterprise Adviser network is that it has real potential to improve the outlook for young people by giving them better access to employers.

These encounters both inspire them and help them make better and more informed choices about their next steps.

We’ve seen this in action across the country already and it is expanding.

The Enterprise Adviser network is up and running in more than 30 LEP areas, and the company will be in Leeds on
23 February to celebrate their official launch of the partnership.

It will increase information available to education leaders and students about the local labour market and how the curriculum links to careers.

This information is hugely valuable in a number of ways, not least in tackling the myth that vocational routes are in some way inferior to university.

As we continue to grow, we’ll build on what works, facilitate the scaling-up of the best programmes and work nationally while tailoring locally.

I know, from first-hand experience, just how inspiring encounters with employers can be for young people in bringing the curriculum to life and galvanising their ambition.

I strongly recommend that college leaders embrace this opportunity and give us feedback about what more we can do to improve the life chances of the young people in your care.


Brian Lightman is a board member of the Careers & Enterprise Company, and former general secretary of the ASCL

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