Building business links with schools

Venue: Milton KeynesMilton Keynes
Date: 01 Feb 2015 - 28 Feb 2015

Building links with a local school should be your business’s ‘nearly-new’ New Year’s resolution, says Dr Philip Smith, chair of MK Business Leaders Partnership

Some say that New Year resolutions made at the stroke of midnight on December 31 are bound to fail.  Better to make a binding commitment in the less frenetic and probably more sober weeks or months that follow?

And like any good business decision a ‘new year’ resolution, no matter when it is actually made, should achieve its objectives.  So if giving up smoking, drinking alcohol or being a better person fell at the first fence how about this as a resolution for your business in 2015 - building links with your local school or college?

Now I speak with a little bias here as I am also chair of governors at The Milton Keynes Academy whose mission statement includes working closely with local businesses so students benefit from being familiar with and fully prepared for the world of work.  This has seen the Academy enjoy strong links with companies locally including Audi, Santander, Network Rail, Halifax and Deloitte, and see students acquire the skills and knowledge that employers demand.

We enjoy the expertise of business people who visit us, holding workshops and mentoring programmes which broaden the learning experience and raise the horizons of students.  And it is a two-way street, with companies developing the skill sets of their own staff by engaging with our students as well as exploring new ways of approaching their own business challenges and keeping in touch with a potential stream of future employees.

It is a win-win for the Academy, our students and our business partners and, in the words of the late Mandy Rice-Davies ‘I would say that wouldn’t I?’  But MK Academy does not, nor should it, have a monopoly on business links.  Many schools in Milton Keynes already enjoy links with companies at various levels and nationally the CBI has highlighted such links as being beneficial to a business organisation.  It says a link can be limited to employees volunteering to help with numeracy and literacy programmes and with either side choosing the level of their commitment.

Milton Keynes College, whose Principal Dr Julie Mills is also a board member of MK Business Leaders, regards close connections with business as having strategic importance.  As well as a further and continuing education role, the college delivers training and development for companies and agencies in a number of sectors.  ‘Links with business also help us understand what employers want from young people and how the education sector can help deliver it.  It is a collaborative process,’ Julie says.

There is room for your business to get involved at your local school, perhaps by offering practical help according to your area of expertise like building, decorating, vehicle hire or marketing?  If you have a community involvement programme your next staff ‘away day’ could involve working in a school?  Or, after consulting with teaching staff, how about using your business to help shape careers guidance as students prepare for the world of work?

So, why not make your ‘nearly-new’ year resolution to contact the head teacher or principal of your local school or college.  You could find it leads to a lasting and rewarding partnership that endures for years ahead.

Dr Philip Smith, chair of MK Business Leaders Partnership