Enterprise Adviser Network


The Enterprise Adviser Network links schools with the business community. The aim is to encourage businesses to work together with schools to support young people in making choices about their future career.

The project provides better information to schools about skills needs, so that existing career-focused activities can be enhanced and developed.

Initially, we were able to fund 36 schools on the project. However, in November 2016 we secured additional funding which will allowed the project to roll out to a total of 60 schools. This means that 60% of schools in the area have an Enterprise Adviser.

Funding for the project was secured by HotSW LEP, in conjunction with the four upper tier local authorities. CSW Group is contracted to provide the service, which is being funded by the Careers and Enterprise Company, Devon County Council, Somerset County Council, Plymouth City Council and Torbay Development Agency.

Latest updates

  • In July 2018 Heart of the South West one of 20 areas to receive boost in preparing young people for world of work. Find out more here.
  • In July 2018, HotSW Enterprise Advisor Jake McClure won the national award for “Enterprise Advisor of the Year”. See Jake’s video about his experience as an Enterprise Advisor here.
  • In December 2017, extra funding enabled more schools to take part. Find out more here.
  • In November 2016, extra funding was secured to enable more schools to benefit from the project. Find out more here.
  • Exmouth Students to attend international business conference – A group of students from Exmouth Community College will be making their first steps into the world of business when they join a Devon company at an international trade show. Find out more here
  • Business mentors start work with schools – Businesses have started working in schools throughout HotSW. Find out more here
  • Video (January 2016)
    The LEP People Group has produced a video to showcase the work in enterprise education which has been taking place across the HotSW area. There is a lot of activity across the HotSW region and we have some great examples. The group would like to share these with others and encourage more partners to become involved.We hope this will encourage partners to work together to help businesses meet their skills needs and support young people with future careers.
Watch the Enterprise Education video

Case studies

Kate Doodson, joint CEO at ethical IT business Cosmic, explains why she has signed up as one of the first business mentors on this new programme:

“I chose my first career whilst I was still at school. I really enjoyed maths and physics, so I wanted to be an engineer. I decided on Civil Engineering as I wanted to work outdoors.

“I attended Notre Dame School in Plymouth and at the time the careers advice was patchy. I remember we did a questionnaire once about which career suited you the most. It came out as computer science or teaching. This is very close to what I’m doing now!

“My second career, in IT, started when I moved to Devon and decided to explore IT. I’ve now been in the industry for over 15 years.

“My IT career began with me working on a large website, which took over 12 months to develop. This taught me a lot about the web industry and site design and development. The industry changes quickly, so the business is all about keeping up with news, trends and developments.

“As I run the operations side of the business, my key responsibilities are managing the team, keeping an eye on our finances, planning for our future and creating and developing relationships. So not so much engineering or technology application in my day job now!

“I also spend time lecturing on digital futures and tech, which means I keep up to date with technology. This is useful for me to bring back into the business too

“I wanted to take part in this project because I love the idea of being able to make a difference to a local school.

“Just allowing the school space to think about careers advice and guidance will help them. Also, having another person’s perspective – particularly someone who is external to the school and has a business perspective – will help shape and formulate an effective plan.

“I also believe that I can help by bringing in digital solutions to support decisions.”

“We are at the very beginning of the process now, so it is difficult to see what the challenges may be, but I expect engaging other businesses may be tricky.

“I’m really looking forward to the project as I love working in schools: Cosmic works in schools offering tech support, so we are often in and out of schools, but we don’t get the chance to work on enterprise.”

To find out more about Cosmic, visit: www.cosmic.org.uk

The Enterprise Adviser Network is a programme designed to encourage businesses and schools to work together to support young people in making informed choices about their future careers. The programme launched in the spring of 2016 and the first Enterprise Advisers started work in schools in September 2016.

Jo Fellows, Human Resources Strategy Manager at Devon County Council talks about why she chose to get involved and the partnership with Clyst Vale Community College.

“When I attended school in Exeter, I don’t remember having any careers advice at all! At the time, I fancied getting into human resources (HR), but didn’t know a lot about it. When I applied for jobs, I didn’t even get shortlisted because I didn’t have experience.

“At school I was very academic and quiet, so I was pushed to go down the university route, which I hated , I only lasted a month! This really knocked my confidence at the time, but I came home, and made my mind up to be more confident and get some more work experience.

“I then found out about Devon County Council’s (DCC) in‐house ‘temp bank’ and thought that would be a good way to get some office and admin experience. My first placement was in the Chief Executive’s and Legal Department doing general office duties.

“Over the next few months I was able to take on a wider range of HR administrative duties and eventually got a contract and an opportunity to start studying for my professional HR qualifications, which then led to being appointed to a role in the HR Department.

“After a few promotions within HR at DCC, I relocated to Northampton and worked as a HR Manager for Northamptonshire County Council. I then worked as National HR Advisor at the Local Government Association (LGA), working across England and Wales with a range of councils. It gave me the opportunity to do things like write national publications, attend meetings in Whitehall and speak at conferences in front of hundreds of people.

“I guess my career history shows is that I ‘fell in’ to HR and local government, but I’m glad I did. I love working in HR because you deal with such a range of issues., services and occupations – from teaching to social work, engineering to ICT – with a wide range of management styles and cultures.

“My role is about ensuring that we have the right workforce in place at the right time to deliver our priorities as a council, supported by our recruitment, selection, training, pay and benefits .As a strategic role, I need to think about what is coming up on the horizon that might impact upon that, keeping up to date with changes in employment law, the economy or Government policy. I have to look at what the future world of work might look like, to inform what our workforce future strategies and actions might be.

“I talk to people inside and out of the Council, within HR and other service areas to make links, learn from others and influence how the Council will manage and develop its workforce in the future. I “I’ve always felt strongly that the chasm is too great between school and work and young people aren’t given enough information about the range of opportunities that might be available to them. It was this that made me want to get involved in the Enterprise Adviser Network. Working in HR at Devon County Council I also know how important it is to get young people into the workplace. Our age profile at the Council is fairly skewed (41% of our non‐schools workforce are over 50).

“As our Council apprenticeship lead, I was also struggling to understand the range of organisations and initiatives that are out there to support apprenticeships, work experience, young people’s employability etc and I thought this role would also help me with this, which it has!

“I volunteered to work as an Enterprise Adviser via CIPD and I saw this as an opportunity to try new things, develop new skills and meet new people. I am local government through‐and‐through, so an opportunity to talk to employers in other sectors – from small local businesses to big corporate entities is proving really useful.

Although it’s still early days, I already feel that I have given the school a fresh perspective on what employers in 2017 are looking for. I helped the careers teacher to develop an employability day for year 10 students where we got them to do a group exercise as though they were in an assessment centre. Some of the students were candidates and some assessors.

“The idea was to demonstrate to them how important things like interpersonal skills, body language, confidence etc are and also to see it from the point of view of the employer (the assessors found it hard work!). I helped out with the sessions, which was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. It also really helped me to understand where the students and teachers are coming from, which I can then feed
into their careers strategy.

“In particular, I’d really like to see if we can build the concept of responsiveness into their future careers strategy. There’s more and more research showing how the world of work is changing (gig economy, 100 year life, portfolio careers etc) and yet we still ask our kids ‘what do you want to do when you grow up?’ ‐ I think the question should be ‘what sort of attitudes and skills will you need when you grow up?

“For me, the most rewarding part of the Enterprise Adviser Network has been seeing how much potential there is to contribute and reduce the chasm between schools and work. I’ve also enjoyed the chance to talk to the students and understand more about where they’re coming from.

“Going back to school has been a fantastic and challenging experience. It’s improved my understanding of what it’s like in school now and that there are many ways that employers can learn from schools/young people and vice versa. I also feel like I am giving something back to the local Devon community and helping a little bit to improve our local economy and the employability of young people.

“I’d definitely advise more employers to get involved. It’s given me new insights, from the school, student and other Enterprise Advisers who work in other sectors and at DCC, we are doing things slightly differently because of the project.

“If I were advising a young person, I’d tell them to consider all the options and, if you can, try out different things. It’s important to be adaptable– it’s great to have an idea about what career path you want to follow but don’t assume that this is the path you will follow forever. Focus on things like interpersonal skills, body language, confidence, adaptability, continuous learning – make yourself marketable with employers – technical skills and knowledge can always be learnt. Finally, push yourself and try new things.”

LittlePod, based at Farringdon near Exeter, was set up in 2010 and is now an established company, providing high-quality vanilla, coffee and chocolate extract products across the UK and beyond.

Janet Sawyer (BEM), Managing Director at LittlePod, explains why she has signed up as one of the first business mentors on this new programme:

“My own working history has been very varied. I started my working life in banking and then moved to work for the British Trawlers Federation as a trainee statistician. I’ve also worked as a primary school teacher, a child psychotherapist and helped found a not for profit community arts society where I still have a role as director.

“I started LittlePod in 2010 when my son left home to study –  I have always been concerned for young people and at that time one million graduates were unemployed, including some of my son’s local friends who were returning from university.  I saw starting a small company as my way of ‘doing my bit’ for them.  

“We are now an established micro multi-national company, selling to distributors across the globe in Germany, Portugal, Hong Kong, Australia, Sweden, Estonia, Qatar, USA. We were the first to market with our hero product: a vanilla paste in a tube which is now used by chefs and home cooks. I am also the author of a cookbook – Vanilla – Cooking with one of the World’s finest ingredients.

“I enjoy my working life which has enabled me to offer internships and apprenticeships to around 15 young people to date. In 2012 I was awarded the British Empire Medal when it was reintroduced for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, for my contribution to employment and culture in East Devon.

“I wanted to volunteer as an Enterprise Adviser as I found the idea of acting as a link between the education environment and business environment compelling and wanted to make a contribution.”

“I began working with Exmouth Community College in the summer of 2016. I met with members of the Senior Management Team and we quickly established our roles within the project and agreed what could be achieved in the timeframe.

“After considering the school’s Needs Analysis, I developed a proposal to implement a quick project that would have a real impact for the students.

“LittlePod has been sponsored by Food Matters to exhibit at the prestigious Food Matters Live event, which is the UK’s only conference bringing together all aspects of the food industry internationally to enable collaboration and debate. The students have been given special permission to attend the event, as normally entrance is only available to over 18s.

“I therefore launched a competition among the business students, asking them to design an interactive portal’ to be used at our exhibition stand to inform our visitors about the world of edible commodities: vanilla, coffee and chocolate.

“I spent time with the students, presenting our company and our background and put forward the proposal for the competition.  The project was an extra-curricular offering and therefore time was of the essence to get the winning design selected.

“I spent another two hours in the classroom with both classes circulating among all the groups looking at their work and answering questions.  I was impressed with their responses to the project and saw that an interest in commodities had been ignited.

“I then organised a panel of judges from the world of IT, design and technology to choose a winning team: it was a great afternoon of judging.  I was thrilled at the level of interest and value the judging team gave to the students work.   Whilst they found merit in several groups works there was an overall and definite winning group.  The judges awarded marks and gave feedback on all the work.

“Given the restrictions on time we decided to turn the design into a workable format to be presented at our show on an IPad.

“The winning group of students flew to London for the day. At the exhibition, the students were presented with a LittlePod Enterprise Award for their work, which was presented by Aisha Stenning, a former intern of the company who is now an Information & Sustainable Business Analyst with Unilever.

“LittlePod organised with HSBC an invitation to visit the iconic HSBC HQ in Canary Wharf, with a guided tour and brunch in the boardroom.

“The whole event was a wonderful opportunity for the students, who had the chance to experience a large corporate event and see how business works internationally.

“After the exhibition, myself and the school reflected on the outcomes and reviewed this in terms of the Needs Analysis. Our conclusion was that the hours spent on the project had a wider impact than we anticipated.

“The networking opportunities of the Enterprise Adviser Network are also being realised, as several people from the judging panel offered ongoing services to the school.”

To find out more about LittlePod, visit www.littlepod.co.uk

The Enterprise Adviser Network is a programme designed to encourage businesses and schools to work together to support young people in making informed choices about their future careers. The programme launched in the spring of 2016 and the first Enterprise Advisers started work in schools in September 2016.

Inspired to Achieve (i2a) based in Yeovil, provides impartial information, advice and guidance to empower people to fulfil their potential across the South West of England.

Head of Inspired to Achieve, Debra Scarratt, talks about why she wanted to get involved in the Enterprise Adviser Network at Chilton Trinity School in Bridgwater.

“I left school at 18 when I took a YTS scheme and worked as an Audit Clerk for a Chartered Accountants, doing PAYE and VAT returns. Originally, I’d planned to study business studies, but changed my mind, as I knew I didn’t enjoy taking exams.

“After several years in this role, I married and had a family. In 1992, I re‐evaluated my career and decided I wanted to work with young people and influence outcomes, so I retrained as a careers advisor and then advanced through the ranks.

“Inspired to Achieve is a social enterprise and delivers careers information, advice and guidance for unemployed and under employed people. Day to day, I have the overall responsibility for running the business, managing contracts and a team of seven staff.

“When I was at school, the careers advice was very poor. At the time, I was considering becoming a teacher, but the Careers Advisor advised against it, saying it would be a waste of time if I was going to get married and have children!

“Thankfully, careers advice has progressed since that time, but I remain passionate about careers advice – it needs to be plentiful, relevant and of a high quality.

“That’s why I wanted to get involved with the Enterprise Adviser Network. I know that to be effective, careers advice needs to be embedded within a school and for this to happen, change must be at a strategic level.

“Chilton Trinity School have been completely on board with this approach and since I’ve been working with them, have implemented some tangible changes.

“Initially, we identified the need for an audit of Careers Information, Advice and Guidance (CIAG) to be completed. This audit identified seven key areas to work on. From this, we are developing an action plan and feeding these actions into the schools five year strategic plan. This may sound simple, but it is a huge step and makes it clear that the school is committed to improving careers
advice, both now and in the future.

“As part of this action plan, the job profile and job description for the Careers Advisor is to be changed to raise the profile of careers across the school. Chilton Trinity has recognised that impartiality is really important and are commissioning a new service for the next academic year.

“We also planned an apprenticeship session for staff, to provide an update on how apprenticeships have changed in recent years.

“For me, the most rewarding part of the project has been getting the school to recognise the impact of external information, advice and guidance. They are now planning how this will be implemented and this is exciting.

“The most challenging aspect has been around how schools work, and the difference between school and business culture. However, I’ve really enjoyed the experience of going back to school and I wish there was a need for me to work more closely with them going forwards.

“I would recommend the project to other employers – I would advise that they really sit down first and work out their aims and objectives, and establish how they want to influence skills. I would also emphasise that employers get a good understanding of their schools before starting work, as it’s crucial to know what they need and how they work.

“My advice to students today who are looking at careers is to really do your research thoroughly. The job environment is changing rapidly and it’s important that you know if opportunities will be available in the future.

“As a result of this project, we’ve also adapted our way of working on a practical level. We now recognise the value of giving people constructive feedback on their CVs and now do this at every opportunity.”

Atlas Packaging is one of the UK’s largest most comprehensive independent packaging companies, based in Barnstaple, North Devon, and offers an extensive range of bespoke design and manufacturing services.

Jason from Atlas Packaging talks about why he decided to get involved in the Enterprise Adviser Network project.

“I’m originally from the Midlands and got started in the packaging industry after I saw a job advertised in Barnstaple – I was 23 at the time. I was drawn to the offer because of the location. I jumped at the chance to move to work in the beautiful South West area.

“Once I began working in the role, I realised that I thoroughly enjoyed the packaging industry and have been here since 1992.

“I started as a trainee salesman and had limited experience after leaving a role in an insurance company. The first few years were very interesting as I got to learn about the industry and meet the key players within the corrugated world. I have had the privilege of
visiting many different factories and seeing a multitude of processes that serve me well today.

“A typical day for me at work involves measuring machine output, monitoring efficiencies and connecting the team. I also prepare the strategy for the business i.e. where we intend to take the business, what investments we need to make and finding the right people.
“I attended Stoke Park School in Coventry, but it seems so long ago I cannot recall what careers advice was like. It certainly didn’t help me as I left with no idea on what I wanted to be.

“I wanted to get involved in the Enterprise Adviser Network project as I feel that everyone should help one another. I think that the youth of today are definitely in need of guidance at this crucial time in their lives.

“I’ve been working with Ilfracombe College and have attended a careers workshop and hosted a talk on social media. We’ve also been working with some of the students at Atlas, as they came to us for work experience.

“The idea was to bridge business with the school and my brief was purely to help the students understand how business works and the type of traits required to work in the packaging industry.

“I hope it has shown both teachers and students that businesses within North Devon are varied and have great opportunities if you have the right work ethic and attitude.

“For me, the most challenging aspect of business is people. If your team do not work together it can be massively detrimental.. We are a family run business and everyone makes a valued contribution. I have remained compassionate and supportive in the hope that people see that we want them to succeed and in general this is well received.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed being involved in the Enterprise Adviser Network, however, I do not envy the pupils of today. There are so many distractions and pressures to compete on many levels within the school.

“The experience feels rewarding from the point of view that I am there to show them that there are careers available that may not immediately spring to mind…who thinks of getting into box making?

“If we can help pupils understand the different opportunities available to them, this will help them to make decisions and plan their future. I believe this is necessary and it is rewarding to engage with the youth of today – after all, we were all young once.

“My advice to young people is to find something you enjoy and if you can make money from it, grab the opportunity as you will be working for many years to come.

“As a result of this experience, I will be keen to give any young people an opportunity to demonstrate that they possess the ability to fit within the business. If they’ve been to Ilfracombe Academy I would have to give them a chance for sure!”

To find out more about Atlas packaging, visit: www.atlaspackaging.co.uk

The Enterprise Adviser Network is a programme designed to encourage businesses and schools to work together to support young people in making informed choices about their future careers. The programme launched in the spring of 2016 and the first Enterprise Advisers started work in schools in September 2016.

Richard Stevens, Managing Director at Plymouth City Bus, talks about why he wanted to get involved with the project.

“I didn’t enjoy school: I was not engaged and left without any qualifications. At the time, I felt really lonely and I wasn’t sure what I should do. There was such limited careers advice available and it was difficult to know which path to take.”

“I decided to join the army as a junior leader, but quickly knew it wasn’t the right career for me. Lots of seasonal jobs followed: eventually, I took a job selling menswear and saved up enough money to take either a lorry driver’s test or a bus driver’s test. I decided to take the bus driving route, as I didn’t want to work long hours by myself, I don’t like my own company that much!”

“Once I had my bus driving licence, my career took off and along the way I’ve done lots of other jobs in the industry, besides driving buses. Over time, I progressed in my role and I’m now in charge of Plymouth City Bus – a major employer with a £26m turnover. If you’d told me, aged 16, that this would be my future, I wouldn’t have believed you!”

“For me, a typical day involves making sure everything runs smoothly, ensuring quality transport for customers. I review our performance, both operationally and financially and adjust our activity accordingly, there’s more to running buses than just the buses; it’s a commercial, competitive market place with plenty of challenges.”

“I wanted to get involved in the project because I thought I could help. If I can help anyone avoid the pitfalls I went through, then I feel duty bound to do so ‐ I’ve been working with All Saints Academy in Plymouth since September 2016.”

“When I arrived at the school I worked with them to review their careers strategy and we made sure careers information, advice and guidance were given prominence.”

“But this was just the start. Since then I’ve become really hands‐on, working closely with the students and the staff. We initially facilitated visits to our Plymouth City Bus offices and depot, so students could look around and find out more about us.

“I also ran mentoring sessions, working with groups of students on various topics such as leadership, marketing and engineering. The engineering students have been working with us on real engines, while the marketing students were in charge of developing a social media campaign.

“We also donated one of our old buses to the school, where it will be used as an arts centre – the art students will install works of art throughout the vehicle, transforming it into a place of colour and imagination. Photography students have been involved too, and have used our buses for a photographic study.”

“We also worked with the school to implement various challenges, to help incentivise students. For example, we set up a challenge, asking students to suggest ways to encourage commitment to numeracy and literacy. They also conducted market research for the company, producing a genuinely useful report. In return we agreed to refurbish their 6th form common room as a reward for their efforts.”

“One of my favourite things about the project has been the opportunity to get to know the students better. We have been working with them on recruitment techniques, including CV writing and interview skills, during one session with the students at our depot. One student impressed us so much that we created a job for her – she is now our administrator/marketing apprentice.”

We’re now working on a work experience strategy. This is a long‐term relationship between Plymouth City Bus and the school ‐ we won’t be done in a year. In fact, I’ve become so involved with the school that I’ve decided to become a governor.”

“For me, the most rewarding part has been gaining a new insight into what teachers do. The most challenging part has been standing in front of pupils – I had no idea what they were thinking, or if what I said was having any impact. I had to find a way of talking them at their level and that is why the mentoring workshops have been so important. So I’m especially pleased that feedback from students and teachers has been really positive.”

“I’d recommend the project to other employers, definitely. Do it! You need to establish a strong relationship with the school, but really mean it – don’t use the experience as a CV builder for you. It’s also not about telling schools what to do, it’s about enabling outcomes.”

“The Enterprise Adviser Network has been an amazing experience for me and for my company as a whole. It’s helping us to grow. It’s given us a totally different insight into young people – the way they think, the way they behave – and it has changed how we treat them as customers. For example, we’ve completely changed our approach to social media, following advice from the students – a business studies group reviewed our activity and made really useful recommendations.”

“It’s also given us a much deeper appreciation of the work we need to do as employers to work with young people, which is vital in the wider business community context.”

“This whole experience has been really thought provoking. I can recognise young people who are in the same situation as me when I left school and I really feel for them. If I could give them one piece of advice it would be ‘don’t panic or give up’. You live a long life and the chance of getting it right first time every time are slim – hard work is the key to success, so don’t be put off, just keep working hard.”

The school have also been enthusiastic about the project and how it helped them. Matthew Brake, Assistant Headteacher said:

“Working with City Bus is opening the eyes of the students of All Saints Academy about the opportunities available to them in the world of work.

“It is also opening their eyes as well as to the skills they will need when they leave school, in order to maximise those opportunities.

“Richard Stevens, MD, and all his senior staff, have been incredibly generous with the amount, and the quality, of the support they have given us.”

To find out more about Plymouth City Bus, please visit: www.plymouthbus.co.uk

Key documents

How to get involved

We are now looking for new Enterprise Advisers across Devon, Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay.

For more information about becoming an enterprise adviser, please contact enterprise@cswgroup.co.uk or telephone 01392 215501


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