With the announcement at the end of the last school term that over 60 Business Class partnerships in Wales have been established, nine involving Lloyds Banking Group, Richard Breeze, Relationship Manager, takes a moment to reflect on the lessons he's learning from schools in Wales.
I’m proud that Lloyds is a longstanding supporter of and participant in Business Class. The programme provides us with a strategic framework which enables us to develop mutually beneficial, long-term partnerships with local schools. Schools benefit from us sharing our skills and experience, supporting them in their development plans. Our business benefits in many ways including gaining the chance to develop the skills of Wales’ future workforce, training and volunteering opportunities for colleagues and stronger links with local communities.
In Wales, Lloyds have been partnered with Cantonian High School in Cardiff since 2014. Since the Welsh Government / Careers Wales backed wider roll-out of Business Class, Lloyds have been able to develop eight other partnerships across Wales – covering areas as diverse as Newport and Flintshire. It is fantastic to see so many colleagues from the Group taking part in Business Class and supporting the next generation of employees of Welsh business with activities, exercises and tasks like enterprise workshops and skills-based competitions – helping to prepare them for the world of work.
With nine partnerships now established across Wales, it is interesting to see what common challenges schools are facing and what opportunities exist for shared areas of working.
Through the in-depth needs analysis and business objectives matching process, which sits at the heart of the Business Class programme, I have found there are similarities in the needs of schools. For instance, it seems that irrespective of location, most if not all, of the schools understand the need to broaden the horizons of a sizeable cohort of their students in terms of the opportunities available to them both on their doorstep and further afield.
In this, as with many issues that we work on with schools, there is a clear role for responsible companies to step up and participate. I think there are great opportunities for us to approach our wide range of SME clients with a view to helping to open students’ eyes to the possibilities that exist, with visits to offices, manufacturing plants, design studios etc.
I have also spoken to schools about the power and impact of their alumni in terms of having a compelling story to tell. Not every school is going to count among its former pupils a household name or an individual whose life appears to have been an unbroken golden thread of success. But this may well not be what is required anyway. In my experience the more lasting impression can often be left by a speaker that can relate a personal story about their own lack of direction and the obstacles and setbacks they have confronted and overcome.
Other common needs seem to involve looking at ways to better market the school, support delivery of the Welsh Baccalaureate and digital literacy. The Welsh Baccalaureate, of course, represents very much an overarching commitment to preparing students for the world of work; something which Lloyds Baking Group believes is central to business engagement in the secondary education sector.
Having nine partnerships across Wales also presents a unique opportunity for colleagues from across the Banking Group to get involved with schools in their area.
I try to encourage volunteers to reflect on their own time in school and recall how they viewed the prospect of leaving it, whether it be moving onto Further/Higher Education or actually entering the world of work. Most acknowledge that it was a scary time and a real step into the unknown. In supporting schools and students, we are trying to ease some of these concerns and cast light on some of these unknowns.
This can take the form of helping to prepare students for living independently and managing their own finances or recognising their skill set and relevant experiences as part of applying for a job and preparing for an interview.
All the Lloyds Bank colleagues that I have spoken to, who have supported events in our partner schools, report that they have enjoyed the experience of interacting with the students. They have been genuinely gratified by the feeling that they have made a difference and recognised the value they have derived from challenging themselves to get involved. The willingness on the part of these volunteers to seek out further opportunities to engage with schools represents the ultimate confirmation that it is the right thing to do, for all concerned.
Winston Churchill once famously remarked that “there is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies”.
Expanding on this sentiment I would suggest that, in a commitment to helping Wales prosper, companies and organisations such as Lloyds Bank can make no finer investment than to engage with our schools and help with the wider education of our future citizens, clients and employees.
Lloyds’ nine partnerships in Wales are with:
Brynteg Comprehensive School (Bridgend)
Bedwas High School (Caerphilly)
Cantonian High School (Cardiff
Glan Y Mor School (Carmarthenshire)
Elfed High School (Flintshire)
Bassaleg School (Newport)
Pembroke School (Pembrokeshire)
Hawthorn High School (Rhondda Cynon Taff)
Bishopston School (Swansea)