When planning my Churchill Fellowship, I wanted to find out more about initiatives that linked education, community and/or business to raise literacy – for children and for adults. Oral skills are an issue at work. Employers talk about young people not being able to communicate clearly when they start work. And its not just young workers. It’s very common for employers to look to workplace literacy programmes to improve employee participation in team meetings and their confidence to ask questions.
Setting out consciously to build young peoples’ oral communication skills makes sense and it looks like there is particular power when combined with contact with employers. Contact with employers is not a ‘nice to have’ – it has real potential to have long term positive impact. Research by the Education and Employers Taskforce It’s Who You Meet: Why Employer Contacts at School Make a Difference to the Employment Prospects of Young Adults found that young people who had contact with four or more employers were more likely to be successful and much less likely to be NEET (not in employment, education or training).
Words for Work is a National LIteracy Trust Programme set up to build young people’s oral skills and confidence and increase their exposure to employers. http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/words_for_work
Students aged around 13-14 work on communication skills as part of the English curriculum, and work in small groups with a volunteer business mentor for an hour-long sessions over six weeks. Evaluations show that it can really make a difference.
Currently the programme is being redeveloped to better deal with the practical realities of connecting education and business. School timetables are crammed, businesses aren’t able to commit to that many sessions and not all business people are able to work with young people. Where there is a good fit, employers are able to describe personal experience of stuggling to find a career or life direction , or to succeed at study and are able to commit
Words for Work may not be yet be quite the right structure. But the idea has real merit. Perhaps there is scope within Auckland Council’s Employer Pledge to think about ways to increase young people’s opportunities to really talk with employers and talk more about work earlier on in their school life.