UTCs support the local economies of which they’re a part. To deliver economic prosperity, our education system must meet the demands of local employers. And that’s just what we do.
Local employers are central to UTCs: a mutually beneficial relationship exists between the two groups. Employers have strong representation on UTC governing bodies, support and shape curriculum projects, provide work experience placements and offer careers advice and mentoring. And, in return, they benefit from the talent pipeline of ‘work-ready’ young people leaving UTCs to become apprentices and employees within their organisations. Through this symbiotic relationship, UTCs support the local economies of which they are a part.
Of course, the deep co-operation between employers and schools, championed in UTCs, takes time to embed. To maximise the time and effort invested and the benefits to both parties, UTCs have learned through experience that there are six key ingredients needed to achieve outstanding employer engagement:
- Employers must see UTCs as key components of their talent pipeline. This goes beyond corporate and social responsibility activities, verging on a commercial relationship, often led by a senior HR representative at the partner employer. The time invested by employers to support UTCs, and their return through leavers joining their organisations, should be closely correlated and measured.
- Senior level individuals, often in addition to the UTC’s teaching staff, must be specifically allocated to ensuring that employers are supported in a professional and timely manner at each UTC. Experience has shown that certain employers may be willing to part-fund this position, once its value has been established.
- Active and strong governance of UTCs must be provided by employers; the requirement that a majority of governors is sourced from UTC partners achieves this result.
- An extensive programme of employer engagement activities must be planned, with ‘employer time’ ring-fenced from the academic curriculum, ideally held at fixed times of the week or points in the year.
- A clear set of processes and systems at UTCs must be implemented to support effective employer engagement, ensuring both that all staff are aware of their responsibilities and that employer interactions are managed as efficiently and effectively as possible.
- Employer relationships, which are central to UTCs’ vision, must be at the heart of all marketing, brand, and strategic initiatives. Indeed, a close link exists between the number of students on roll at UTCs and the strength of employer engagement: the stronger the employer engagement, the more students in attendance.
This unique form of education exists only because of employer need, which is recognised across the entire UTC programme; despite regular government-led changes to school policies and priorities, the distinct and truly special relationship with employers must be preserved at all cost. By meeting the demands of local employers, UTCs are helping them to deliver economic prosperity, which is particularly important at the current time.