Colleen Hempson is Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at East Midlands Airport. She is a member of the Enterprise Adviser Network, worlking with schools in Leicester and Leicestershire to improve careers education. We caught up with her to ask her some questions about her role within the EAN.
Q: What was the driving force behind the decision to become involved in careers education by taking on the role of enterprise adviser?
A: East Midlands Airport has engaged with schools and education for many years, through our ‘Inspiring Young People’ programmes, work experience and school visits to our on-site Education Centre. However, engaging with secondary schools has been challenging given their understandable focus on the curriculum.
We wanted to understand the challenges facing secondary schools so that we could better place ourselves to develop quality and lasting relationships. The EAN has provided a platform and structure for quality engagement. Addressing our skills and talent pipeline is also essential and one of the reasons why we came on board.
Q: What challenges have you faced?
A: The network is fantastic and has given us the opportunity to stand up and talk about what we do. At times the interest and enthusiasm from schools around engaging with us has been overwhelming.
Q: What processes and/or techniques have you employed to support the progress of the programme?
A: There is an element of discipline involved in chasing up cancelled meetings and ensuring they’re in the diary. We never close a meeting without first setting the date for the next one – this ensures continuity.
I also know that Ben [Wilkinson, school Careers Lead] finds value in being able to come out of school and have meetings at our offices as this gives him the time and space away from the daily interruptions that happen at school. Ben often remarks that teaching staff as a rule have always been in education and lack an awareness of the world of work outside of education.
I think that being able to sound off ideas in a room with people who come from a business background provides a different sort of perspective and sometimes new ideas and approaches emerge as a result.
Q: How have the LLEP & ECC affected or influenced your journey?
A: Gerarde Manley [LLEP Careers Hub Manager] and Abdul Bathin [Careers and Enterprise Company Regional Lead] are phenomenally knowledgeable – there is nothing they don’t know! I’ve also attended some useful LLEP and CEC events that have kept me well informed.
It’s been through my engagement with the CEC that I’ve formed a better understanding of the Gatsby Benchmarks, and this evidence-based approach has helped us further shape our ‘Inspiring Young People’ programmes and strategies. Over the past three years we’ve added ‘school partnership’ workstreams to our existing programme, delivering a much more impactful programme albeit to a smaller cohort of students, with targeted schools and colleges.
Whilst this has been significantly more resource-intensive, it’s clearly been of benefit as it’s effectively a group mentor arrangement rather than a group visit. Small numbers of students visit the airport multiple times throughout the year, learning and practicing new skills, and gaining a greater self-awareness of their own personal qualities, all the while growing in confidence
Q: Is there anything about the journey you have found surprising?
A: It’s been different from the day job which is enjoyable. My involvement has helped us shape our future strategy. We’ve learnt valuable lessons from activities such as small group mentoring as opposed to larger groups of 30+. Seeing first hand that this can be deeply beneficial for young people, backed up by GB data.
The process has helped me to frame the business strategy with the confidence that it’s built around a reliable evidence base.
To find out more about the Enterprise Adviser Network, or to apply to become and Enterprise Adviser, email email@example.com.