Gold Medals: There’s a lot of luck involved.

“There was luck involved…had I been brought up in Newcastle, Leeds, Birmingham or Bristol there would have been no indoor cycling and no Olympic Gold medals”.

The above quote is from a multiple Gold-medal winning GB Track Cyclist and highlights not only the humble beginnings they started from but also the element of chance that plays a big part in all of our lives…even our Olympic heroes and heroines who represent the global pinnacle of sporting prowess and competition.

“There was luck involved…” How many people would agree that their career and lives were affected by luck, or chance, or an unplanned or unpredictable event – either a meeting, an occurrence or chance encounter of another kind? Well, this is Jason Kenny – the six-time gold medallist identifying how the geography of his hometown of Bolton – and its proximity to Manchester Velodrome had a major impact on his future career.

What about enterprise and careers education…is there luck involved there too?

In November 2016 OFSTED released ‘Getting Ready for Work’ – its analysis of the impact and types of enterprise activity found in schools in the state sector. Ofsted carried out questions in 40 schools as a part of a ‘thematic inspection visit’; undertook 12 ‘phone interviews with head teachers of schools with outstanding enterprise provision, spoke to a variety of agencies and took 338 responses from Ofsted’s Parent Panel into consideration. The key findings make interesting reading:

  • The extent to which schools used curriculum to prepare pupils for the world of work (WoW) is largely dependent on whether leaders considered it a priority.
  • Opportunities to undertake meaningful work experience are limited at KS4
  • Business involvement in schools often relies very heavily on the personal networks of teachers and parents – often meaning students in disadvantaged areas or schools miss out
  • Lack of coordination across local areas has created an environment for schools and business that business leaders described as ‘chaotic’.*

*It is worth noting that many business leaders still maintain that schools are not producing ‘work-ready’ young people…one wonders how many of them are linking with schools to try and change this (with the ‘chaotic’ comment above one can hardly blame some busy business leaders for not wanting to).

In terms of the key factors required to successfully promoting and delivering enterprise education, the report found the following:

  • A commitment to enterprise from school leaders;
  • A common understanding of what Enterprise Education is;
  • Ensuring there is a coherent programme that embraces all pupils;
  • Systems in place that assess pupils’ progress in enterprise education as well as monitoring provision in this area;
  • Making effective use of links with employers.

The report found that of the 40 schools they inspected, ONLY FOUR – yes 10% – could point to all of the above key factors being present in support of their students’ future careers, enterprise skills, networks and aspirations.

In this high-achieving 10% the leaders were able to describe the impact of their employability knowledge and skills on pupils and used external awards and cohesive structures and strategies to embed, develop and deliver enterprise and careers education.

Structurally the schools were able to use start-point data to target employability or enterprise events that would benefit students specifically – building up a student profile that included attendance, ability and achievements alongside their enterprise and employability skills. In addition, external awards and teacher CPD and assessment were seen as essential in these 4 schools where best practice was seen.

The biggest weakness across the other 90% was the lack of cohesive planning in enterprise education, lack of identification of the subject matter to be learned by students and what capabilities this should lead to in pupils.

“In general, the absence of an overarching plan led to a lack of coherence in [enterprise and careers education] in these schools meaning leaders were frequently unable to monitor the impact of the activities”…”The delivery of the most successful enterprise education was at times dependent on having people in post who were passionate about Work-Related Learning”.

OK, it seems like luck IS involved in enterprise and work-related learning (WRL) as well.

There have been many changes in the past decade over enterprise and WRL, careers education and funding support in a variety of areas. Combined with changes to university funding, school models – inc UTCs and Free Schools, recession, a renewed accent on apprenticeships, Brexit and in December 2016 changes to funding for schools across the board we’ve had, and will continue to experience, shifting sands in careers and enterprise education.

Engineering Random Opportunities to Succeed.

So, as we have seen above – from Olympians to any KS3 or 4 pupil in the UK, chance in many areas combines to support or reduce opportunities for young people.

What can be done?

  • National Careers Week (6-10th March 2017) is intended as a kick-start to your annual careers journey where the Directorship Team want to help you “Make Every Week Careers Week” with a set of curriculum ideas and links on a weekly basis to help you link all your subjects with future careers, FE / HE and WRL.
  • We work with schools to support their plans and deliver events with their staff and students to meet their enterprise and WRL needs. Whether Strategic Planning, supporting careers events or delivering WRL or Enterprise events for whole year groups Innovative Enterprise brings 12 years’ experience to the table.
  • Robert Halfon – Apprenticeship and Skills Minister – states that “I am committed to enabling young people and adults to get the skills they need” and he also claims that “the Apprenticeship Levy will give employers genuine control over the training they buy and that businesses have the right people to compete on the Global Stage”
  • We work with businesses to design challenges that test young people, develop the business’ staff and promote the name and company opportunities at the same time through Corporate Social Responsibility activities such as mentoring.
  • As you may have seen in my TEDxWhitehaven talk, Engineering Random Opportunities to Succeed, we have been working with loads of businesses to enable young people to experience valuable and realistic work experience and enterprise activities, develop networks and personal skills and set them on their way to success in the future.
  • There will be an Engineering Random Opportunities to Succeed book in 2017 which will address some of the issues raised in this blog and suggest strategies and toolkits to help your young people succeed.

Here’s the link to the TEDx talk Engineering Random Opportunities to Succeed from TEDxWhitehaven.

Thanks for reading this blog post – remember if Olympians even need luck and chances to get started on their journeys to succeed – the truism that everyone starts somewhere was never truer than in today’s career landscape.

By developing leadership attitudes, WRL and enterprise strategies in your school or college, developing relationships with businesses and local employers and a programme of WRL, tapping into the activities of National Careers Week and other initiatives we will combine forces to Engineer Random Opportunities to Succeed in the next generations of Young People in the UK.

Connect with me on Twitter for further information or ideas: @EnterpriseSBox



[References: Ofsted ‘Getting Ready for Work’ November 2015; Lancashire Business View Sept 2016; ‘Enterprise for All’ Lord Young 2014.]