FSB: Tap smaller businesses to boost Scottish pupils’ prospects

Thursday February 18th 2016

One in four Scottish small firms provides help to high schools and opportunities for local pupils, a new Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) report reveals. The study finds that it would be relatively easy to get more firms involved with a local secondary and argues that developing these relationships would reduce youth unemployment and boost pay for young people.

The new research, called ‘School ties: Transforming Small Business Engagement with Schools’, says that thousands more Scottish businesses could help prepare young people for life after education. The study asks head teachers and Scottish Government Ministers to make it easier for firms to get involved. FSB suggests a new national online matchmaking service to link schools with businesses and help with insurances and paperwork for firms.

Feedback from Scottish businesses shows that they are supporting schools in a number of ways. About two thirds of firms (63%) with a relationship with a local school provide work experience placements, about two fifths (44%) have provided jobs to young people, a quarter (25%) have provided work trials and one in five (20%) have offered apprenticeships. About one in five of these smaller enterprises have delivered careers talks (22%) while similar proportions have offered mentoring to pupils (20%), supported in-school enterprise competitions (20%) or contributed to the delivery of a lesson (17%).

FSB says that building links between smaller firms and the classroom is especially important for schools in poorer or rural areas, highlighting that local firms with links to education are much more likely to recruit young people.

FSB’s Scottish Policy Convenor Andy Willox said: “Our report reveals that businesses and pupils both benefit when schools and industry work together. But too many people on both sides of the school railings think it’s too hard to develop this relationship.

“In rural Scotland, smaller enterprises are often the dominant force in the local private sector. And pupils in poorer areas could benefit disproportionately from early exposure to the expectations of the workplace. That’s why a larger number of smaller firms need to make a connection with a local school. But the Scottish Government, schools and other decision-makers need to make it easier for firms to give what they can, when they can.”

About a third of firms (35%) with no existing relationship with a local school say they simply hadn’t considered developing a partnership. The report, the first study in Scotland on this issue, shows that while a quarter of Scotland’s smaller firms have been involved in a local school in the last two years, three in five firms have never had links with a local secondary. Encouragingly, however, it also identifies fairly straightforward steps that can be taken to get more businesses involved – such as direct approaches from schools themselves.

Richard Scothorne, director of Rocket Science who conducted the study, said: “Smaller firms will be vitally important if Scotland is going to hit government targets and reduce youth unemployment by 40 per cent by 2021. International evidence suggests that, every time a young person comes across an employer, their potential wages increase and the likelihood that they become long-term economically inactive decreases.

“This groundbreaking study shows that many Scottish businesses are already giving something back to their local school. But it also reveals that thousands more firms could be encouraged to get involved.”

The full report can be found HERE.

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