ABCN has taken a very deliberate approach in identifying our focus areas, and our program design, based on evidence across a range of educational and workplace research.

Why do we focus on low socio-economic schools and students?

ABCN focuses on empowering students from low socio-economic status (SES) schools to achieve more than they thought was possible, through business mentoring and business/school partnerships.

We focus on low SES schools because students from these schools have significantly worse outcomes in terms of education and employment than their more advantaged compatriots, even when the students start out on similar trajectories and are high performingThese outcomes do not reflect the wonderful potential of these young people, and we want to change that.

Some evidence around these gaps includes:

  • Education gap: Students from the lowest SES quartile are approximately three years behind their advantaged compatriots in maths and science at the age of 15, according to PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) data
  • Expectation gap: While just under 95% of high-performing advantaged students expect to complete higher education in Australia, only around 75% of high-performing disadvantaged students expect to do the same. High-performing advantaged students are half as likely as high-performing disadvantaged students to not expect to be professionals or managers, according to OECD data
  • Post-school outcome gap: This gap persists into life post-school, where young people from the second-lowest SES decile are almost twice as likely to not be fully engaged in education, training or employment at the age of 24, according to Victoria University’s Centre for International Research on Education Systems

Why do we work with business to support these schools and students?

ABCN works with business to support low SES schools and students because there is significant evidence of the unique and powerful role that businesses and their people can play in helping these students to achieve more than they thought was possible.

number of UK studies have found a significant link between the number of positive employer engagements or contacts at school, and post-school outcomes – particularly a reduction in the level of students not fully engaged in employment, education or training and in wage premium. The impact in the UK has shown to be higher with low SES schools and students than with average/advantaged students, according to UK not-for-profit, Education and Employers (see more findings from Education and Employers here). The Foundation for Young Australians’ research in Australia found students who build enterprise skills in education transitioned up to 17 months more quickly into full-time work.

Australian schools emphatically endorse the value of school/business interactions, with ACER’s recent survey, “What Do Schools Want from Engagement with Business”, showing that more than 90% of 250 educator respondents said they wanted to increase their current engagement with business. The top benefits were identified as:

  • Increasing students’ career aspirations – “You can’t be what you can’t see”
  • Boosting students’ engagement in learning
  • Developing students’ “future of work” capabilities
  • Building students’ understanding of future work environments

As the world of work changes, our businesses are telling us that the skills and mindsets to be successful are changing, and at the same time, our schools ask us to support their students to develop these. Our high school programs focus on these emerging skills and mindsets, particularly:

  • Self-management: Understanding personal strengths, weaknesses and values; goal-setting; time-management; resilience
  • Collaboration: Emotional intelligence; communication; collaboration; building relationships; empathy
  • Thinking: Creativity; problem-solving; entrepreneurial mindset
  • Mindsets: Learning mindset; growth mindset
  • STEM: Technology skills; numeracy

There is a wide body of literature underpinning these skills and mindsets such as FYA’s ‘New Work Order’ series and the World Economic Forum’s Jobs of Tomorrow report.

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