Engaging with Schools as a Business: Not Just CSR, But Two-Way Skills Development

How much of what you learned in secondary school do you use in your job today?

Now I don't mean social skills, time-management or other general foundational life skills: I mean real knowledge that you use on a daily basis and can refer to in applications and interviews.

Whatever your answer, I can guarantee that when the students of a University Technical College (UTC) are at the same points in their careers, the answer they give is going to be quite different.

University Technical College? So, like a Uni?

No, not like a Uni. UTCs are technical schools for 14-19 year olds which offer students more than the traditional GCSE and A Level curriculum. They get their name because they're backed by one or more local Universities (along with local employers like us).

At Razor we've been working with our local UTC for almost 2 years now, and having seen first-hand the stuff these kids are learning, (we're talking 14 year olds doing stuff most traditional Computer Science graduates we employ wouldn't have touched 'til they became undergrads) we're really pleased we became involved.

So how have you been involved?

We began by doing a one-off App Re-Imagination Workshop at the City Centre campus last year (that was with a mix of students, not all computing ones) but this year we really got stuck in and have been running a year long piece of coursework with the computing students at the new Olympic Legacy Park Campus. We’ve turned the tables and become clients while they’ve formed their own groups (small Digital Agencies, if you will) to each develop a digital product for us.

What do you get out of it?

Ok so there are the obvious benefits to us as a business: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), having input to the curriculum, marketing opportunities, exposure, hoping some of the students remember us and want to work with us in the future. However one of the most immediate and tangible benefits we've experienced has actually been something we weren't expecting; skills diversification.

Running a workshop with secondary-age computing students is not the same as running a workshop with your clients, but having experience of both helps you do each thing better.

Equally: mentoring and developing a group of secondary-age students is not the same as mentoring and developing a group of adult employees, but having experience of both helps you do each thing better.

If you don't work in education directly, the experience of engaging with your local UTC will almost certainly be of professional benefit to you and your employees. It's something I'm pleased to have done myself, and pleased we can offer the team here as a way to take a break from the day-to-day and to develop some valuable skills.

Is it just digital employers that can get involved?

Certainly not. UTCs require input from companies that employ a range of technical specialisms.

So how do others participate?

Start by finding your local UTC and get in touch with them! In our experience you’ll be put in touch with one of the Curriculum Directors that each cover a few of the technical specialisms. That person will be able to let you know how you get involved.