31 August 2017

  |  CBI Scotland


Sherry Coutu CBE, Chair and CEO of Founders4Schools, shares her view on how bridging the gap between business and education is critical to Scotland’s economic growth.

Scottish pupils are leaving school without the skills required by employers. In a rapidly changing world the skills gap is widening and a lack of skills poses itself as the number one barrier to UK economic growth.

Drawing on results from the latest CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey for Scotland, we know that 77% of UK businesses expect to increase the number of highly skilled roles in the coming years.

This is coupled with 59% of those same businesses lacking confidence in their ability to fill these same roles. Careers advice was also cited by the CBI as a particular worry with 91% of Scottish firms believing existing advice for young people is not good enough – higher than the overall UK figure (84%).

Founders4Schools is one of the initiatives that aims to tackle this skills crisis head-on. Now operating in Scotland with support from the Hunter Foundation and in collaboration with SDS and the DYW agenda through the shared Marketplace platform, the charity was established with the intention of giving young people the early and repeated exposure to the workplace needed to improve their career prospects. 

Founders4Schools uses technology to make a seamless connection between education and business. The platform enables teachers to invite local business people into the classroom to inspire pupils about the world of work at a range of careers encounters including employability events, workplace visits and soft skills events.

Business people are encouraged to sign up to the platform to pledge as little as an hour of their time, indicating that they are happy to be invited by local teachers to inspire pupils about the world of work. Research by Professor Anthony Mann of Education and Employers Taskforce proves that following four employer encounters pupils are 86% more likely to be employed and earn 18% more.  

This research is backed-up in practice and Founders4Schools has already made a material change to thousands of students’ futures. As Chair and CEO it’s immensely rewarding to witness the palpable impact we’ve had on many lives. But it’s not just our work – Founders4Schools relies on pupils, teachers and business leaders to succeed. Hear what they have to say about the project in their own words:    

Sean, S5 business studies pupil

“It surprised me to hear how important life skills are. Going through school so far, we focus on grades, but outside of that is also important. Communication and how you present yourself.

“I felt the speakers were quite honest. It wasn’t fake or a show at all. They were genuinely speaking one-to-one – not to a crowd but like they were speaking directly just to you. And they gave really good information.

“Before now, I had no idea what the business world was like. This opened my eyes a bit to what it’s actually like, not just what I thought it was like.”

Alan Hamilton, Business and Technologies Teacher, Stirling High School

“I think it’s good for pupils to hear from real people who are saying the same things that we’ve been saying in school. As soon as a business leader comes in, they start to take the messages on board, because they’re the people who will be employing them in the future. That has a lot of impact. 

“Some of our young people have parents, or aunties or uncles with really exciting careers who sit down and discuss those careers with them. But others come from a background where there’s been a history of unemployment and if you’re not getting that same positive message, you don’t know what options are out there. The more we can immerse pupils in that and give these opportunities the better.”

Victoria Mellor, CEO & Co-founder, Novatum Group

“Spending an hour of my day at a local school to inspire a room full of students is awesome. I always come away energised.”


How to get involved

If you or your company would like to sign up to Founders4Schools, indicating that you’re happy to give back to your community and help increase youth employability, take a minute to sign up now.