In 2019, ABCN commissioned the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) to survey school leaders around Australia. Our aim: to learn what schools want from engagement with business.
More than 90% of survey respondents said they wanted to increase their current engagement. The top benefits were identified as increasing students’ career aspirations, boosting their engagement in learning and developing their “future of work” capabilities.
“Australian educators see business as having a unique role to play in preparing young people for their lives post-school. Schools have a great appetite to work with business to enrich student learning, open up career possibilities and develop the future skills of their young people. The changing world of work makes these linkages even more crucial, so we urge all businesses to find ways to support schools.”
Allegra Spender, ABCN CEO
The survey found that the most common ways schools currently engage with business is through work experience programs and career talks. When asked how they would like to enhance that engagement in future, schools nominated face-to-face mentoring, work experience and workplace visits as the top three items. These rated far more highly than sponsorship.
The ACER report points to the enormous potential for schools to pursue a much deeper relationship with business in future. “Schools with limited engagement do not realise what can be achieved,” the report says, noting that work experience often focuses on the ‘hard’ skills associated with short-term jobs, rather than ‘soft’ skills (such as problem-solving, critical thinking and teamwork) vital for a long-term career. “All schools need to understand that a school-business engagement is more than the provision of work experience or vocational placements; it is an opportunity for students to learn about the world after school.”
Many of the respondents wrote about the positive impact one-on-one interaction with businesspeople can have on students, citing skills development, confidence in speaking with professionals, experiencing the “real world” and a renewed focus on their school studies.
“Students have difficulty becoming what they don’t see. Working with business mentors is so important – they help students see the future.”
Beth Godwin, Cabramatta High School Principal
Business engagement with schools also helps build a positive perception of business in the community, the survey found. The vast majority – 86% – were extremely positive about engagement, with many saying they were surprised by how willing businesses were to help students. One common word respondents used to describe business was “generosity”.