How to use education partnerships to attract young talent in logistics

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As a sector tackling a skills shortage and with tough times ahead for the economy, raising positive awareness of logistics industry careers with the next generation of talent is vitally important. But where should you start? And what are the benefits?

We spoke to Ian Nichol from Career Ready, Andy Page from Business on the Move, and Bethany Fovargue from NOVUS Trust for their advice and tips.

1. First, be clear what you want to achieve

Be very clear from the outset about what you want to achieve from your partnership with education, whether that is a school, university, or college. You can only know if you’re successful if you are clear about what you want to achieve in the first place. Also be clear about what business commitment you have, in terms of staff time and any resources you might be able to offer before you even engage. Get any approval needed before you start the conversation.

2. Do your research

Research the education provider, just like you would a business client to check they’re the right partner for you. There are school websites, prospectuses, and curricula available, so look at them all first. All schools are also now legally required to publish their careers policy, so that will provide insight into how it approaches engagement with employers. Also, check out who’s on the governing body and has specific responsibility for employer engagement, because that might be a useful discussion point or entry point. 

People in your own business may have already got contacts in the school or college, so check within your own staff team if anyone is already in contact with them, as they might be a useful source of information.

Plus, think about and understand some of the parameters that all schools have to work within. If you’re working with a school, do you know what exactly Ofsted is? And what the league tables are? Or if you want to work with a business school, expect that they want to 6 to 12 months ahead, especially in the current environment. 

3. Engage with the right person

To initially engage, try to make personal contact and avoid email. Start at the top if you can, as you’ve got to get CD leadership and senior management team behind what you want to do. Identify key personnel, such as someone in charge of work-related learning, or a key department for a particular subject or specialism. 

Be prepared with reference material to back up what you are talking about, such as a website or testimonials, and be clear on the nature of the relationship you are looking for. Is it a long-term relationship? Or a one-off engagement? Be honest and upfront.

4. Get the first meeting right!

It sounds obvious, but make sure you go into the right building, to the right site, especially schools that can have split site buildings! And make sure your car parking is arranged so you don’t lose planned meeting time.  

In terms of the sort of key issues and questions that you’re likely to discuss, don’t assume that you’re the first employer offering to do this sort of thing. Find out what the school’s been doing in this area before as there is unlikely to be a blank canvas to start from.

Go in listening mode to find out exactly what the school might be looking for. If they’ve got no ideas, then you can suggest some but try to start from where they are at. If you’re going in with a specific programme or offer, then make sure that it is clear and that you’ve got evidence that it works. Make it clear what you’re going to get out of it – that’s nothing to be embarrassed about as the relationship should be on the basis of mutual benefit, for education and business. 

Have a plan but be flexible. You may hit upon something in that meeting that you hadn’t anticipated but is a great opportunity so you can go away and consider how your business can meet that curriculum need.

5. Understand the barriers

The language and the cultures are different between business and education so businesspeople need to appreciate this in any engagement with schools. Response times from schools may be longer than businesses normally expect as teachers have limited time available to reply to emails.  Likewise, universities will need time to talk to their teaching staff before any decisions are made. Also, in the current climate, employers will need to be patient. There is catching up to do so many programmes may not resume for some time and may not be able to be face to face.

For university engagement, one of the biggest challenges is that the academic calendar runs very closely to the logistics calendar. So, it may be the Christmas peak when an institution is requesting a guest lecturer. In that case, businesses do not have to send a very senior figure – it really doesn’t matter who speaks as long as they are passionate about the company and the sector. Many businesses send apprentices into schools to speak with great results.

6. Get help from the experts

For businesses needing reassurance, there’s now an infrastructure in place via an organisation called the Careers and Enterprise Company, with more than 30 careers hubs in place in a range of local enterprise partnership areas. The hubs include schools, colleges, universities, and employers and each local enterprise partnership has an enterprise advisor, who’s there to advise employers and support them in engaging with schools. The local Chamber of Commerce may also have relationships in place.

There is a whole range of charities that engage with schools. Many charities have programmes that employers can tap into. Whether it’s delivering a talk for an hour, or something more involved, like mentoring, skills masterclasses, workplace visits, work placements or paid internships. These charities provide the infrastructure to ensure that businesses can engage successfully with schools and give employers the support for a successful outcome.

To make engagement with universities easier, there is usually an employability office in place to help employers get in front of young people and secure that talent. This can include jobs boards and graduate placement but generally offers a much more extensive service than this, enabling employers to choose how and when to engage with students.

7. Talk about what really matters

Educational partnerships are a great opportunity to promote your company brand, but also a great opportunity to promote the logistics profession and that is very important.  Aim to show students a range of different opportunities depending on what they want to do after they leave school or college. 

Avoid acronyms and jargon – these won’t mean anything to the young people you’re talking to. Keep it short and case study based is good for engagement. Share numbers where possible. What are your volumes? What are your turnovers? What inventory are you carrying? Young people are often awed by these statistics.

Always, give time for questions. Sometimes you’ll get good ones, sometimes you won’t. But it really helps to build that perception that we’re a profession that cares about young people’s development and that wants them to feel that we’re open, honest and they can interact with us. Allowing time for questions does that.

8. Demonstrate diversity

As well as enabling your organisation’s young people to be ambassadors for your business, it’s really important to show diversity where possible and try to steer away from the stereotypes of a white, male dominated industry.

Videos are a great thing to share in activity with education institutions, but ensure they are fit for purpose for the audience. Try to show the realities of different roles within the industry, alongside its diverse workforce.

9. Showcase your involvement

If you have the opportunity to shout about what you’re doing, then do! From a PR perspective, these programmes help to showcase the global, fast-paced, well paid profession that logistics is, as well as what your organisation is achieving. This could be within community newsletters or newspapers, trade press, associations, or your own channels, such as your websites and social media.

When you go to a school, parents are always very interested and as a result, local press are often interested in the good news story about what you are doing too.

Doing this will take time and effort, but if you put processes in place to do regular updates, yearly or quarterly for instance, it will help promote what you are doing to young talent.

10. Experience the benefits

Engaging with schools offers clear benefits in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility and giving back to the local community.  Staff from the business can also get involved, providing rewarding and enjoyable volunteering opportunities and great personal and professional development that boosts morale.

Partnering with educational institutions can also help to develop new talent pipelines for jobs and apprenticeships within your business and build your reputation as an employer of choice. It is a chance to inspire the next generation of talent – the group you’re talking to, and those who hear about it through ‘playground chat’, as well as to enrich the curriculum so that young people entering the world of work better understand it, and the skills they need to succeed. 

It also benefits the educators. For instance, employer engagements can help schools to achieve the Gatsby benchmarks which define the best careers provision and advice and guidance that schools can give to the students. Two of these benchmarks relate to the world of work, specifically encounters with employers and employees, and the experiences of workplaces. So, organisations can really bring those two benchmarks to life by engaging with schools and colleges.

More resources

To learn more about how to get started with education partnerships and the benefits this can bring to your business, listen to our Talent in Logistics podcast here:

Engaging with educational providers to help with youth employment

You can also download free resources educational resources and activities via our Learning Through Logistics zone. These have been collated by Talent in Logistics in collaboration with Business on the MoveCareer Ready Think Logistics, and NOVUS Trust. All of these resources are completely free and ideal for both parents and teachers to use to educate children and young people about the world of logistics, and why it’s so important.