BRIAN MANNING: Helping to prepare the next generation for work

Brian Manning, chief executive of Esh Group
Brian Manning, chief executive of Esh Group

Things have changed a lot since I left school – young people have so many options available to them they’re in danger of being overwhelmed and tuning out.

 At Esh Group, we’ve been using our Building My Skills (BMS) programme as an example of how a business can enable young people to gain access to a broad range of experiences within the workplace.

It gives young people invaluable understanding about the world of work directly from us as employers, through timetabled careers sessions delivered by businesses.

They benefit from mock interviews, work experience and apprenticeship opportunities. So far, 49 schools in 23 local authorities have taken part, with 65 businesses contributing time and resource.

I’m proud to say we’ve employed eight young people at Esh Group through the scheme, while it has also helped us build better relationships with our suppliers and community, and given staff valuable development opportunities through volunteering.

Young people need access to quality careers information but few schools are doing this as well as they could. They find it difficult to provide their students with ‘real’ experiences, while local authority cuts make it difficult to fund programmes to achieve this.

BMS provides schools with regular business engagement and supports them in meeting new Ofsted requirements. It gives the businesses a chance to promote their sector and opportunities for staff to get involved in their local communities.

From a survey of 884 students conducted in December 2014, 68% agreed BMS was more appealing as it is delivered solely by business.

Before BMS 13% of students had engaged with one business a year, whereas afterwards all had engaged with six businesses a year. It has also raised the profile of the construction industry among school pupils and enabled Esh Group to engage with young women and young people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities – audiences it would previously have found difficult to reach.

•Brian Manning is Esh Group CEO and chairman of the NECC Durham committee.