In the business of creating partnerships

The Business Class programme aims to provide learning opportunities much further than standard business studies. Picture: Bill Henry
The Business Class programme aims to provide learning opportunities much further than standard business studies. Picture: Bill Henry
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SCOTS schools and pupils benefit, writes Christine Murphy.

At Scottish Business in the Community (SBC), we believe that employers are in a unique position to equip young people with the inspiration, knowledge, skills, and motivation they need to transition successfully from education to the workplace. SBC has worked for more than 30 years to promote the clear benefits to employers from engaging with young people at school.

In conjunction with our sister organisation Business in the Community (BITC), we’ve recognised and responded to the need for business action by creating the Business Class programme which forms strategic, long-term partnerships between businesses and schools. Each three-year school-business partnership is part of a local cluster that is an effective network to share best practice, develop new partnerships, identify common challenges and accelerate improvement. We currently have clusters active, or in development, in five local authority areas: Stirling, Falkirk, Glasgow, Edinburgh and South Lanarkshire.

Business Class is a government-endorsed programme, which provides a systematic framework for business to support young people facing social disadvantage by forming long-term partnerships with schools. The programme has been identified as an effective model for tackling youth unemployment by all local authorities in which we work and recently Business Class received funding from Glasgow City Council, for significant expansion activity to work with schools across Glasgow with particular alignment to the recent Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce Commission’s report. Our schools and businesses tell us participation in Business Class has improved students’ employability by over 40 per cent.

There are currently nearly 500 Business Class partnerships across the UK. From their site at Craigforth in Stirling, Prudential led the challenge in Scotland and worked closely with Scottish Business in the Community to pilot the programme across Forth Valley in 2011. Gavin Rennie, Prudential’s head of corporate responsibility, believes firmly in the programme, saying: “At Prudential we’re determined to play our part in helping young people get the skills and work experience they need. More business across Scotland getting involved will make a real difference to more pupils’ lives.”

This support from Prudential has ensured that Scotland’s secondary schools have had the opportunity to participate. We now currently have nine partnerships set up across Forth Valley, Edinburgh and Glasgow, impacting on the lives of over 600 young people.

At our recent Business Class in Action event, we brought together some businesses currently involved, as well as some who were keen to find out more, and also school pupils who had participated in the programme. The pupils spoke eloquently and passionately about just how much confidence and knowledge they had gained from being on the programme. They spoke of the “life-changing” experience and how their ambitions were now more focussed. The consensus was that the programme came along at just the right moment; at a time when they were ready to be serious about the future and to explore more fully all the options that lay ahead.

The core philosophy of Business Class is that the school is the “client”. It is the school that determines what is needed from its business partner. Using a detailed needs-analysis process, head teachers define the priorities for their business partner.

The vision is for every school in the Scotland to have a long-term collaborative strategic business partnership to help our young people build successful working lives. SBC aims to build 100 partnerships by December 2018 through long-term business engagement rooted in the needs of our Business Class schools and which will positively impact on the lives of over 15,000 young people. Our schools are eager to get involved; however, we need the support of business to make this happen.

• Christine Murphy is business class manager (Scotland) for Scottish Business in the Community. For more details, contact her on: christinemurphy@sbcscot.com or 0131 451 1100.

• Watch a short video about SBC’s recent Business Class in Action event at www.sbcscot.com/business-class/

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