Businesses Support Employer Encounters in Middle Schools for c.700 Students

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“I really liked how much advice we got given. I’m really thankful we got to have that opportunity. I’m sure it will really help me in the future. I would have liked to have had longer for even more information.”

This is just one of the many fantastic feedback statements we have had from middle school students in response to a project specifically for middle schools in Dorset, designed by the Careers & Enterprise Company with the support of Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership, and delivered through Dorset Chamber’s Young Chamber programme.

Dorset is one of 13 areas still using the three-tier education system with 11 middle schools (of 114 nationally) which include students from Year 5 to Year 8. Traditionally, information on progression routes and employer encounters has been focused in the ‘upper schools’ which the students join in Year 9 – the same year they make their GCSE choices.

The middle schools project has seen employers supporting c.700 students in just two and half weeks in June and July, including Dorset Chamber members, Dorchester Chamber for Business and Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce members, and with the help of the Collaboration for Dorset Careers cross-organisation action group, which supports the careers agenda for all students in Dorset.

The project has visited 5 of Dorset’s eleven middle schools this half term: Lockyer’s Middle School, Corfe Mullen; St Osmund’s Middle School, Dorchester; Cranborne Middle School, Cranborne; St Mary’s Middle School, Puddletown and Allenbourn Middle School in Wimborne, with a view to organising events for students in the remaining school in the next academic year.

Robert Firth, from the Careers & Enterprise Company who works with schools and colleges in the new Dorset Council area, said: “All schools now have a requirement to provide a robust careers programme to all students from Year 7 to Year 13.  The purpose of this project is to increase meaningful employer encounters that middle school students are receiving at such a key age.  We will also be engaging with middle and upper schools to develop joined up careers programmes for their students, such as the ‘speed networking’ starting to prepare them for the formal mock interviews most of the students will be undertaking in two years’ time.”

Events have ranged from assembly talks for Year 7 and 8 students (Lockyer’s, Cranborne and Allenbourn) covering the approach to careers, making GCSE choices to support future career decision, what success looks like and how to get there given by Vikki Sargeant, Head of Procurement at Siemens Mobility and Joe Turner, CEO at Bluestone College.

St Osmund’s and St Mary’s middle schools have also benefitted from ‘speed networking ’mornings where up to 15 business volunteers* from different sectors spoke 1-2-1 with the entire Y8 year group in a morning, for 3 short interviews per student.  There were some fantastic conversations at both events and the feedback from the schools, employers and especially the students, has been phenomenal.

Joe Turner at Bluestone College is an advocate of giving back to students as well as encouraging them to think about careers in balance with lifestyle and the steps students need to achieve their goals.  Joe said: “It was great to support local schools through Young Chamber and it was encouraging to hear learner’s career ambitions and that apprenticeships were a popular choice amongst many looking into STEM careers. Bluestone College is looking forward to supporting more schools in the area to inspire and help guide learners to their chosen careers through a variety of academic routes.”kim

Event organiser, Joan Senior, Young Chamber Coordinator at Dorset Chamber, said: “It is my role to mobilise Dorset Chamber members as well as the wider business community to help with events in schools and I am always humbled by the response to our calls for support. Business people always tell me ‘I wish we’d had something like this when I was at school’, and that they value the opportunity to help shape the future workforce.  One recently commented that if you are looking to recruit young people into your sector, spending time with them in this format is really useful too.  I couldn’t agree more.”

If you would like to join Young Chamber’s email database to periodically receive emails about events in schools across Dorset with the option to select the ones you are able to support, please email