Link-up plan will see Doncaster businesses help teach school pupils about jobs

A scheme launched in Doncaster this week could transform how employers attract new staff – with businesses going into schools to showcase careers.

By David Kessen
Wednesday, 17 July, 2019, 14:40

Officials from companies, schools and the Doncaster Council attended the launch of the scheme – called Opportunities Doncaster – which is intended to help youngsters find out about what careers they can take up in Doncaster.

It is partially funded by the Government’s Doncaster opportunity area scheme, which aims to raise the aspirations of youngsters in the borough, and brings together officials from the business, education and the council.

The launch at the Hilton Garden Inn, next to Doncaster Racecourse, was attended by over 200 people.

Ros Jones speaking at the launch of Opportunities Doncaster at the Hilton Garden Inn, at Doncaster Racecourse

Mayor Ros Jones said youngsters in Doncaster needed the right advice to take the right subjects to move forwards towards their careers.

She said: “This is about getting it right for our young people, and businesses inspiring them for the right career path to realise their potential. We now have a whole team to make it really happen.”

It will see businesses work directly with schools to provide talks, activities and work experience.

Doncaster Chamber chief executive Dan Fell said employment in Doncaster was at a 12 year high, but it was important that everyone was included in the borough’s economic growth, including youngsters leaving school.

Andy Hibbitt, of Doncaster Chamber, with Richard Hough, of Hayfield School, at the launch of Opportunities Doncaster at the Hilton Garden Inn, at Doncaster Racecourse

He said the new scheme would give more focus on strategic work that would have the biggest impact.

Andy Hibbitt, skills and education director at Doncaster Chamber, and business lead for Opportunities Doncaster, said the hope was to take a cradle to career approach, where youngsters are given support all the way until they left school, in terms of finding what jobs they wanted to do. He said the support from the council and the opportunity area scheme meant the project had the resources needed to make it work.

He said the scheme would look to provide more work experience opportunities, and more support for special needs, and felt it could also to help families where there have been three generations of unemployment.

“A knock-on effect may help show parents as well what is available out there,” he said.

Business and education professionals at the launch of Opportunities Doncaster at the Hilton Garden Inn, at Doncaster Racecourse

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“Opportunities Doncaster is a partnership organisation that will bring together all the activities that are taking place. There will be careers fairs, industry visits and mock interviews.

“This builds on what was previously the Doncaster Skills Academy that the Chamber ran and replaces it. This is not led by one side or another, by business or education. It is led to support both sides.”

Those attending the launch from both education and business backgrounds were optimistic for the scheme.

Richard Hough, a science teacher at Hayfield School in Auckley, said his school had worked closely with the previous Doncaster Chamber scheme, called Skills Academy.

Dan Fell speaking at the launch of Opportunities Doncaster at the Hilton Garden Inn, at Doncaster Racecourse

He said: "That was a brilliant way to get employers and our students together. It was a great way for our children to find out about roles that they may have never seen before and get beyond stereotypes.It is about knowing the careers that are out there now and in the future and getting inspired. Our students don’t know a lot about what’s out there unless we can help them find out.

“We already have contacts for whole school events, where we’re going to do carousels of activities with employers. We find that the young people come out of events like that with comments like ‘I’d never considered engineering’. Youngsters tend to know about jobs like teacher, policeman, doctor and the obvious things like that, but often don’t know about careers that would be more suited to them.”

Sonia Hardwick, higher education progression advisor at Sheffield Hallam University said: “I really hope this brings education and business together. In our experience, schools often say employers are unrealistic, while businesses often say schools are unrealistic. Anything that helps them meet in the middle would be great.”

Lindsey Ascough, careers leader at Dearne Valley College, said: “Different organisations coming together like this is wonderful. When you’re working with young people they need a lot of support. We think its important to include parents too. There are so many great kids out there who don’t know what they want to do.”

Gaynor Wand, business development manager at Rossington Hall Hotel, said she hoped the scheme would mean youngsters saw more of the jobs that are out there.

She said: “There will be young people out there who think working in a hotel is just working at a bar waiting on tables or being a receptionist. But there are technology jobs, social media work, and jobs organising events. I think this could be a benefit to businesses like us because the hospitality industry finds recruiting staff an ongoing problem. It’s about opening children’s minds to what’s available.”