Business Class: The lessons learned from co-operating in education

A scheme that supports companies to partner with schools is providing opportunities to employees and students

Being able to tailor the support provided by business to the needs of the partner school is one of the keys to success for Business Class.

Research regularly shows the benefits of business engagement in schools and colleges. To ensure as many schools and colleges can benefit from this support we need a lot more businesses to step up to help. We especially need more small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to offer time and expertise, both because they’re the largest group of employers in the UK and because young people need to understand the future work opportunities that exist within these employers.

In 2018 the John Laing Charitable Trust funded four Business Class partnerships within the Westminster cluster area. Leathwaite, a recruitment company was partnered with St Marylebone School and for the school it was the opportunity to request tailored support. 

“We value employer collaboration as a key part of providing students with a broad curriculum, that provides students with both knowledge and skills for the world of employment," says Fran Congdon, Assistant Headteacher at St Marylebone CE School. "By working directly with Leathwaite, the school has managed to design curriculum opportunities that mean students can benefit directly from employment engagement opportunities with the school setting.”  

For Leathwaite, the benefit came from providing a tailored volunteering opportunity for their staff.

“One of the key findings within our Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For annual survey, which measures staff engagement, was that our staff were asking us for more opportunities where they could ‘give back’ in the form of charitable and volunteer work," says Kevin Matthews, Global Head of Marketing at Leathwaite. "Being able to partner with St Marylebone School for Girls has provided us with a structured programme that the vast majority of our London office has been able to engage within. This is undoubtedly helping improve our staff loyalty, engagement and retention.” 

The impact on both Leathwaite and St Marylebone CE school has been considerable. For the students they’ve gained valuable learning and support. 

“You can see their employees have embraced the challenge to engage by the passion and commitment shown; whether its academic mentoring year 10s as they start their GCSE journey, or speaking in a year 9 options assembly," says Fran. "The messages taking place with students about the life skills needed to succeed are invaluable.”

For Leathwaite, the scheme has had a positive impact on its commercial business. "The partnership with St Marylebone School for Girls is an excellent talking point and differentiator with our clients," says Kevin. "We work within an extremely competitive and complex commercial landscape, and having something unique to draw upon, that helps to display the more ‘human’ aspects of our company, is very important.” 

Supporting SMEs to engage with schools and colleges has significant benefits for both the students and employees involved. Business in the Community is happy to be supporting The Careers & Enterprise Company's Give an Hour campaign, which is encouraging SMEs to give their time to support careers activities in their local schools and colleges.

The campaign features Lorena Puica from iamYiam, another one of the SMEs involved in the John Laing-funded opportunity. You can see Lorena’s story and find out more about the campaign here.