Business Engagement in Early Years

In March 2015, Business in the Community Scotland, with funding from the Scottish Government Early Years Change Fund, initiated a pilot programme to enable local businesses to create sustainable relationships with primary schools, nurseries and early years centres (hereafter collectively referred to as ‘early years institutions’) in the least affluent areas of our communities. This pilot programme led to the production of a toolkit.


These relationships allow business volunteers to assist early years professionals and primary educators in providing the necessary tools to allow every child to reach their full potential and break the cycle of poverty.

The programme worked in conjunction with the Scottish Government’s Early Years Framework, the Curriculum for Excellence, Getting it Right for Every Child and Developing the Young Workforce to help improve the lives of Scotland’s children.

How does poverty affect a child’s education?

  • By the age of five, children from the highest-income quintile are on average around 13 months ahead of their peers in the lowest-income quintile in their knowledge of vocabulary, and 10 months ahead in their problem-solving ability

  • Children from the lowest-income quintile are significantly more likely to exhibit a range of behavioural difficulties on entry to primary school, compared to their peers from the highest-income quintile – they are more than twice as likely to display conduct problems (43 per cent versus 19 per cent), peer problems (24 per cent versus 12 per cent), emotional symptoms (16 per cent versus 6 per cent) and hyperactivity (30 per cent versus12 per cent)

    *Statistics taken from: Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, State of the Nation: Social Mobility and Child Poverty in Great Britain (December 2015) 170.

What business volunteers do

BITC Scotland and the Scottish Government identified several key areas where the knowledge, skills and experience of business volunteers would be of significant benefit to children, especially those affected by poverty. These were:

  • Communication skills

  • Problem solving skills

  • Confidence and aspirations

  • Introduction to the world of work.

Regardless of one’s job, communication and problem solving skills as well as confidence and ambition are essential to all of our lives. These are things that every business can help to teach young children in their communities.

Through this programme, business volunteers delivered fun interactive workshops for children – either using the activity plans found in the toolkit or by creating their own. Some also invited children to visit their workplaces, supervised and advised on class projects, and ran clothing and book drives to support children as they learn.

Benefits and outcomes

The benefits of this programme were wide-reaching and long-lasting for all those involved. Some of the benefits include:


  • Helps to keep them motivated to achieve their full potential

  • Fosters a creative atmosphere and inspires dreams

  • Gives them skills that will help them in later life – study skills, teamwork and social skills, critical thinking, confidence, passion for learning and improving themselves

  • Shows them that every individual has an impact on their community and that they have the potential to make a substantial positive contribution.

Business volunteers

  • Encourages a sense of employee engagement and self-satisfaction amongst employees leading to increased productivity and service in their work

  • Inspires a community atmosphere within the company, encouraging employees to work hard and be proud of what they do and who they work for

  • Incorporates volunteers into an extra-employment social network which improves productivity, self-appreciation and a sense of belonging within the wider community

  • Increases confidence, communication and problem solving skills of the volunteers.

More information

The programme has now finished, but if you would like more information on it, you can contact us at 0131 451 1100 or

You are warmly encouraged to utilise the Business Engagement in Early Years toolkit which contains useful information for starting and maintaining relationships with early years institutions and businesses as well as activity plans and form templates.

Further reading