Devon County Council is one of 11 employers who have recently committed to being a Cornerstone Employer to support the recruitment and retention of younger workers and the work of the Careers Hub (managed by Devon County Council on behalf of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSW LEP).
Cornerstone Employers work with their networks and the wider business community to ensure all young people in their area have the opportunities they need to be prepared and inspired for the world of work. It’s part of a national initiative funded by DfE and delivered by The Careers and Enterprise Company, to support schools in achieving the eight Gatsby Benchmarks
Talking to Jo Fellows, HR Manager at Devon County Council
Is it aligned with what we are already doing in schools and colleges?
Yes, we already offer work experience placements across the organisation and have apprenticeship routes through our Step In and Next Steps programmes. We have developed programmes to offer work opportunities to specific groups, such as, care leavers via our Step Forward programme and supported placements and apprenticeships for young people with learning difficulties.
Through our work with the Heart of the SW Cornerstone Employers network, we will be considering how we can broaden our work with schools and colleges to ensure the opportunities offered to young people within DCC are meaningful encounters. This includes how we will engage with the new T-Levels being introduced by the Government in 2020 to promote technical careers.
Part of being a Cornerstone Employer is to recruit more Enterprise Advisors from our workforce to undertake voluntary work in schools to support careers advice and guidance.
Jo Fellows, HR Manager, became an Enterprise Advisor in April 2017. Jo was recruited via her professional body (the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) and got involved because she wanted to find out more about what schools did to prepare young people for the world of work:
‘I am responsible for the apprenticeship arrangements in the Council and the Enterprise Advisor role seemed to fit really well with my day job. I also saw it as an opportunity to widen my professional network, use my HR skills and experience in a different way and support my local community. Being a mum of two boys aged 11 and 14, I also had a personal motivation for wanting to ensure that my children had the very best careers advice!”
The Enterprise Advisor role is primarily to work with the senior leadership team in the school to help them develop, implement and evaluate their careers strategy and plan (aligned to the Government’s Careers Strategy and Statutory Guidance for Schools), and it’s also a great way of getting involved and ensuring young people get the most up to date advice and support to help them consider all their options and be work ready.
“What really strikes me,’ says Jo, is how unprepared young people are for today’s world of work. Schools (understandably) focus on academic achievements but it’s the fundamental things, like good communication skills, confidence, initiative, organisational skills and adaptability, that employers need and by being an Enterprise Advisor I can help ensure that the school’s careers activity meets those needs, whilst also helping one to one and in a classroom setting, to get that message across”.
Jo has been involved in various things within school:
‘I helped develop and deliver an employability day for year ten pupils, I’ve been involved in ‘speed dating’ where young people ask questions of different people from different work sectors (and I got a few colleagues across DCC involved in this too!) and I have helped students to prepare for mock interviews. I often find young people can’t relate their current experience to what employers might be looking for, so it is really rewarding to help them think about how things like being involved in a rugby team, babysitting or doing the Duke of Edinburgh Award can be used and you can really see their confidence improve as a result!’
Jo says volunteering as an Enterprise Advisor does take time, but is manageable:
“We usually have one meeting per half term and then I might do a bit of work at home or get involved in the odd activity, but it really isn’t excessive. I’m also fully supported by an Enterprise Co-ordinator from the Careers Hub. If you can’t commit to becoming an Enterprise Advisor there is always the opportunity to help out with one-off activities and if you are willing to promote DCC as an employer at the same time that would be great! I would definitely recommend becoming an Enterprise Advisor or at the very least helping out with your local school careers activity.”