Inspiration for Innovation: Inspiring Youngsters to Achieve their Best Employment Destination

“Just a quick email to thank you and your colleagues for the amazing day our son had at the event you organised yesterday. He came home from school absolutely inspired, something we have not seen in him for some time. He had so much to tell us about all the visitors that he had spoken to, and it is clear they have made a huge impact on his vision for the future.” This highly motivational feedback was sent from a parent whose son participated in the Inspiration for Innovation pilot project, and beautifully sums up the spirit of the programme.

Gaia Innovation’s Inspiration for Innovation programme was the perfect solution for MEPC Silverstone Park’s desire to channel a greater number of students into a wider local talent pool by inspiring them to consider careers in engineering and technology and to reach their best employment destination. Through employer engagement, the youngsters are encouraged to take advantage of the wide variety of job opportunities in both the product development and commercial aspects of local businesses that will grow with the onset of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

At the core of the Inspiration for Innovation programme is the concept that engagement with people from the world of work has a positive impact on school pupils. Education and Employers charity research that found that at least 4 positive interactions with an employer improves attainment levels and leads to a child being 86% less likely to become not in education, employment or training, and achieve 22% higher future earnings.

A network of 30 enthusiastic, and inspirational volunteers from businesses across Silverstone Park was formed with this in mind, they included advanced engineering companies such at Delta Motorsport and Performance Projects, plus specialist recruitment companies such as TD Group. Gaia Innovation coached the businesses on how to engage with the schools and motivated them to ensure their encounters with the pupils were positive and meaningful.

The structure of the programme includes an Inspirational Event to be held at one of the schools, an ongoing programme of volunteer to school visits and a tour of Silverstone Park for each school for 50 of their pupils, each with multiple employer encounters to support the requirements of the school in achieving their Gatsby Benchmarks* . 1

Kingsthorpe College, Silverstone UTC and The Buckingham School were included in the pilot year which aimed to provide 1000 positive interactions with the Silverstone Technology Park tenant volunteers. The Gaia Innovation skills framework focused the employer volunteer interactions on assisting the students with the development of personal, social, literacy, numeracy, creativity and technology skills.

The Silverstone Tours were created to show students first hand the types of businesses that exist in the Park, the setting in which they are based and the multitude of skilled people who work there, plus the jobs that are and may become available. The Inspirational Event was designed to inspire and inform Year 9 students about the jobs of the future, specifically careers in engineering and technology. By engaging with 24 ‘real model’ employers from the Automotive, Space and Communications sectors we aimed for the students to gain a greater understanding of ‘real life’ applications of their education. Over the year 26 individual school visits took place, with topics including honesty and integrity using social media, financial industry awareness, a positive mindset workshop, and many more.

The success of this collaborative programme has led to MEPC supporting a second year. Additional sponsorship for year 2 has come from The University of Buckingham allowing expansion of the Inspirational Event into all three schools, and including further specific activities related to entrepreneurship and encouraging female students to consider computer science. SEMLEP is showcasing the Inspiration for Innovation programme as best practice in their region.

1 *Further reading & source – Gatsby Good Career Guidance https://www.goodcareerguidance.org.uk/assets/file?filePath=__/the-benchmarks/gatsby-sir-john-holman-good-career-guidance-2014.pdf 

Thanks to the commitment of all parties especially the volunteers from Silverstone Park we achieved over 2600 meaningful encounters against the 1000 target. The Silverstone Tours measured a 100% positive experience from the 138 students who visited. 594 encounters with employers took place with 575 reported as meaningful and 64% of youngsters indicated that they would be interested in a job at Silverstone Park.

The Inspirational Event was a transformative experience for 240 pupils. 24 Silverstone volunteers with additional guests from the UK Automotive 30% Club and the wider Gaia Volunteer Networks including Silverstone Technology Cluster came together with the shared aim of inspiring the youngsters and informing them about their huge variety of career opportunities. The event created 1449 encounters with ‘real model’ people from the world of work in STEAM related jobs and resulted in 1352 meaningful encounters in total, with 91% of students surveyed saying they had a better understanding of the skills required for jobs of the future. Importantly we also recorded that 57% of students were also reconsidering the GCSE option choices based on their new knowledge.

The volunteer network’s visits into schools reached over 1100 children, with 700 reported as meaningful encounters. The close links between individual volunteers and the schools have led to return visits being arranged and this sustained relationship has a definite benefit for both volunteers, children and staff.

Vitally what we have established in the pilot year is a network combining the skills, motivation, vision and dynamics that will allow the programme to continue. We will be looking to evolve this in the next 12 months and the opportunity for growth will be a primary focus outside of the actual running, delivery and completion of the 2nd year of the programme. We would love more sponsors to come on board to enable the programme to have a wider reach into more schools. If you would like to discuss these please contact me [email protected]

We are also always keen to grow our network of volunteers. Anthony Priest MIRP of TD Group Limited spoke of his experience as an Inspiration for Innovation volunteer: “Being involved with Gaia over the last few months have been extremely exciting. I’ve met a wide range of interesting and positive individuals and had the opportunity to help over 140 students from the University Technical College understand the significance of ‘Empathy and Tolerance in the Workplace’. As adults in the working environment we often take these important soft skills for granted, but presenting to 140 students gave me a newfound respect for these core skills. I look forward to working with Gaia on future events.” 

Please do get in touch if you would like to play a part in inspiring the next generation.