How employers and schools can forge closer ties to nurture future talent

Marianne Curphey talks to Angela Middleton, founder of apprenticeship training provider MiddletonMurray, about the challenges facing young people heading out into the modern world of work.

Female professor teaches female student
Employers need to forge closer links with schools, colleges and universities to help identify and nurture talent and help young people prepare better for the world of work, says Angela Middleton, founder and chairman of MiddletonMurray.
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A bespoke apprenticeship programme

MiddletonMurray is an award-winning Apprenticeship training provider and Apprenticeship Levy consultancy. Launched by Angela Middleton in 2002, MiddletonMurray has built a bespoke apprenticeship programme which educates young people on their options and provides a vocational alternative to traditional university education via an Apprenticeship scheme, leading to real jobs and careers.Angela Middleton is one of the key speakers at Relocate’s Festival of Global People in London on May 14 and 15. She will be speaking about the gap between leaving school and gaining a first job and what can be done to combat the difficulties that many students face. Her presentation will examine the partnership that needs to be generated by schools and employers so that the transition into the workplace is made easier by the career experience gained whilst at school through work experience.

Best-selling author

She is author of How to Get Your First Job and Build the Career You Want, a step-by-step guide for 16-to-24-year-olds on how to choose the right career. Her new book, Bridge That Gap! How Schools Can Help Students Get Their First Job and Build the Career They Want has been written to help teachers who really care about the futures of their pupils and want to prepare them for the world of work. 

She says that most education professionals will concede that there is a chasm between school careers advice and the reality for young people in gaining the skills that will help them make it in the real world of employment. MiddletonMurray takes a holistic view of the job market to maximise the chance that the right candidate gets placed with the right employer.

Schools not geared up to give careers advice.

“I understand that schools are not geared up to be careers advisers,” she says. “They are judged on their academic output and they understandably focus on this job primarily. If they do decide that they are going to give careers guidance they may not be in the best position to do it, as they are educational and academic professionals and not business people.”She says that thinking about careers has to be embedded into the curriculum, preferably with students thinking about potential job options from Year 7. This might include discussions between teachers and parents at parents’ evening about subjects that the child finds interesting.

Focusing on personal development

This way, by focussing on in the future, students are thinking about personal development and the value of what they are studying in school.“It’s about making sure that those conversations are taking place,” she says. “It’s helping them make sense of the world of work. That way, students see school as a means to an end and it gives them an incentive and makes them much more engaged with the learning process. The problem for many teachers is that they spend a lot of time in behavioural management.”

Visiting schools and colleges

Another way to build engagement within school is to encourage employers to visit schools and colleges and talk about careers in their industry to give students a flavour of what is involved. For the employers, it is also an opportunity to spot talent.“They get to see the potential candidates and what talent is available,” she explains, “It works both ways. It would be great if employers had much more contact with schools, colleges and universities.”

Offering interview practice

Another area where employers could be proactive is in helping students with interview tuition and practice.“It can be helpful for them to come in and role play interviews so that students can get a feel for what the interview process is really like,” she says, “Then students will be a bit better versed in the process and will be able to put their best foot forward when they are having a job interview for real.”

Permanent work experience co-ordinators within companies

One of the issues for organisations is that work experience opportunities are not well co-ordinated and the process can be somewhat haphazard. She suggests a remedy would be to ensure that there is a single point of contact and responsibility with the company to help with continuity.“Employers should have a permanent work experience slot which is organised by one person with responsibility for that,” she says, “It is much harder to organise and facilitate if it is done on an ad-hoc basis.”

Unpaid internships

Although there has been much controversy over unpaid internships – with some quarters criticising them as being accessible only to wealthy students who can pay their own accommodation costs, Angela Middleton says if a young person is determined, they will find a way.“Unpaid internships are possible if you really want to do them,” she says, “It might involve sleeping on friend’s sofas but we all have to start at the bottom and work our way up.“I do think employers should be paying travel expenses, but they should not have to pay students for their time. At this stage, the student is not able to contribute anything to the organisation, but in return they are getting something that money can’t buy – the experience of working for that company.”

Digital portfolios

Students should also be putting together a portfolio of work so that they can showcase what they have done to the wider world via digital means, she says.“They can start to post articles on LinkedIn and upload podcasts to YouTube – in this digital age you can’t just write a CV in the traditional way – you need to use all the tools that are available to you.”Students from overseas can also make the most of their opportunities, perhaps by taking an initial job to improve their language skills and get some experience before moving onto a job that will help them progress in their career.

Skills shortages

As for the skills shortages, this is something that will be a challenge to HR departments and recruiters in the future.“We have already seen the effect of Brexit with a lot of talent deciding not to come to the UK,” she says. “Companies are having to stop relying on recruiting from overseas, and focus instead on their existing staff. They are going to have to put together programmes to make the most of their internal talent to develop and retain the best people.”
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