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Business models and needs today are dramatically different to just a decade ago

Technology is radically changing the workplace. Many jobs today didn’t exist a decade ago. And that transformation will continue as companies operate and interact with customers in new ways.  Mobile-first websites, customer service chatbots and cloud-based systems based on big data analytics are the norms, not the exception of running a successful business today.

It means the skills modern businesses need are already significantly different to 2008, and that pace of change is speeding up.

Organisations have always relied on the skills of its people to succeed, but the changing workplace means that people with the right skills and experience are increasingly hard to find. This is holding back businesses and holding back our economy at a crucial time.

The vast majority (93%) of scale up businesses in the UK said they would be able to grow faster if they had access to talent with the right skills.

With Brexit likely to limit our access to talent from the EU, it’s never been more important to make sure young people in the UK are being prepared for this new world of work. But our approach to nurturing the next generation of skilled workers is broken.

Getting young people proper experience of work is the missing link. This experience is vital to making sure tomorrow’s workforce is passionate, engaged, and has the right skills to help our economy grow.

For too long, businesses have only offered work experience to connections of their family or friends, in a meaningless week-long period of making tea and photocopies.

Businesses are shooting themselves in the foot. They need a strong local talent pool, but work experience placements are not set-up to develop and hone young people’s skills.

Instead they see work experience placements as a resource drain, rather than an opportunity to develop meaningful work, bring in fresh perspectives, and grow the local talent pool.

Three key things need to change

We need to completely rethink the way businesses and the young interact as they enter the working world.

  1.   Work experience needs to be valuable to businesses, as well as to young people
  2.   We need to get better at connecting businesses with local young people who already have or are developing the skills they need
  3.   We need to make it easier for businesses to deliver quality work experience that will improve young people’s employability and add value to their business

We have a solution… Introducing Workfinder

We’ve created WorkFinder to easily connect business leaders to young local talent and help their businesses grow.

WorkFinder offers a variety of ways for business leaders to access local talent, whether through work placements, internships or workplace visits or presentations. Whatever size or sector, WorkFinder matches young people with local businesses, and in doing so gives back to the local community, in whatever way works best for their business.

Businesses sign-up online, and then young people can use our app to find the work experience opportunities that best suit their needs and skills.

What you can do now

Offering quality work experience isn’t a ‘nice-to-have’ for businesses, it’s fundamental to their success.  It supports the commercial imperative of growth by improving access to new ideas, skills and talent.

So let’s make it a priority: Sign up to WorkFinder today by clicking here. And then tell your friends and fellow businesses leaders to do exactly the same.


Challenge Your Students With A Tenner

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Founders4Schools are proud to be partnering with the Tenner Challenge to connect business leaders with entrepreneurial young people seeking inspiration for their projects. We wish you all the best of luck!

Want to inspire your students with an Enterprise Competition to start the year? – Register Here

As students return to school after a few weeks of hibernation why not encourage them to take part in the Tenner Challenge? It only takes 4 simple steps and online registration is quick and easy.

  1. Here’s a tenner

The Challenge is free to enter and available to every young person across all abilities aged from 11- 19 years. £10 will be pledged directly from the Young Enterprise Tenner Bank to use as start-up capital to get their own student business idea off the ground. Everyone has 4 weeks to make as much profit as possible.

  1. Getting ready

The Challenge is fun and engaging, from starting with an idea to creating a product or service, designing a company logo and managing a budget to finally trading directly with the public. Following the 4 week plan provides practical opportunities to broaden the enterprise and careers curriculum and allows young people to discover for themselves what it means to be enterprising.

  1. Keep it going

Resources and videos are easy to access online giving top tips on how to get started, case studies and guidance to plan and run the challenge successfully. There are weekly competitions and a national Tenner Challenge competition to enter.   A great way to keep everyone on track from start to finish. Tenner is an original way of creating a fun learning activity by encouraging the fearless spirit of the young entrepreneur within a safe supported learning environment.

  1. Payback and keep the profit

At the end of the Challenge after £10 pledges are repaid back to the Tenner Bank with a £1 legacy contribution, everyone can decide how to spend or donate part or all of their profits to a charity or local project of their choice. Taking part can offer a platform for young people to drive social change in recognising an opportunity to make a positive contribution to the wider community.

Active learning

Using the Challenge as part of your programme of enterprise education and career guidance can have an impact on a variety of outcomes for young people. From greater self-awareness, giving an insight into how businesses are structured to demonstrating the different roles and career opportunities.

Tenner can support programmes of study requirements for a broad range of subjects including English and mathematics beyond class room learning and form a useful part of a coherent and progressive programme of enterprise education, giving opportunities to reflect and evaluate.

Don’t miss out – sign up today. Registration closes on 21st February!


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F4S Response to the Industrial Strategy White Paper

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Earlier this year, with your help, Founders4Schools submitted a detailed response to the Government Green Paper Building our Industrial Strategy. Yesterday (27 November 2017) the Industrial Strategy White Paper was published, and I am delighted that many of the areas we highlighted as key components of a purposeful growth plan have been picked up and investment promised.

Founders4Schools welcomes the Industrial Strategy, signalling a Fourth Industrial Revolution ‘characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological worlds.’


  • The focus on skills, productivity and R&D, which includes the harnessing of AI and big data;
  • The commitment to partnerships across business and government that scale up the technical skills we need for job creation – for this generation, and the next;
  • The announcement of significant investments over the next few years. We would argue that the release of funds should come sooner rather than later to enable technology to start to deliver on the promise.

In recent weeks the Prime Minister and Chancellor have stressed their commitment to supporting the UK’s world-class tech sector.  I am particularly encouraged by the focus in the Industrial Strategy on helping young people to do the newly-skilled jobs of the future; creating the conditions for young people to grow successful businesses, and for the opportunity for partnerships between government and industry that will harness AI and big data to solve our biggest challenges.

Our vision at Founders4Schools is singularly focused on the career prospects of our young people. We want to enable a generation of entrepreneurial thinkers with relevant skills who can raise productivity, at a time when our nation faces into the biggest socio-economic re-think for generations. All new jobs are coming from companies less than four years old and this is set to continue. Our insight is that better results come from connecting young people with business leaders in the local community.

We particularly welcome the Grand Challenge of putting the UK at the forefront of the artificial intelligence and the data revolution, and look forward to engaging with the Business Champions and external advisors who will be appointed in early 2018 to lead this thinking. We welcome the profile that AI and machine learning has achieved and the recognition of their role in transforming business models across sectors by identifying better ways to do complex tasks.

The Industrial Strategy has much good news for the digital sector. We welcome the additional £725m funding available through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to maximise the value of innovative ideas being developed, and the opportunity to launch an expression of interest in 2018. Also, the additional £44m of grant funding from Innovate UK, and the £10m Regulators’ Pioneer Fund to support the development of innovative approaches to emerging technologies. The drive to foster, attract and retain the best and brightest research talent through Turing Fellowships, PhDs and Master level qualifications is good news, as is the announcement for an industry-led AI Council that can take a leadership role across sectors, working in partnership with the new Gov-Tech Catalyst and would welcome the expansion of their remit to include education.

There are enormous opportunities for these initiatives in the education space. At Founders4Schools we have integrated information sources and AI technologies successfully to make recommendations to educators, so they can arrange student-employer encounters based on their preferred criteria in just minutes.

In our response to the Green Paper we called for the release of LEO, HMRC and NPD datasets to allow us to scale quickly and build a picture of the future labour market and enable schools to move more quickly through Gatsby benchmarks for career guidance.  We look forward to sharing learnings and support the setting of standards to ensure the secure, trusted use of data.

We note that 40% of employers reported a lack of STEM graduates: – According to the Scale-Up Institute, 90% of scaleup businesses are concerned about a lack of skills post-Brexit. We know that when business leaders, particularly women, take part in Student-Employer interactions – of which we have now facilitated over 250,000 – likelihood of them taking up STEM subjects increases threefold and 86% are less likely to become NEET.

We are delighted the Government has recognised the vital importance of Skills within the Industrial Strategy. We welcome the investment of an additional £406 million in maths, digital and technical skills (with an extra £40m to train maths teachers) including £84 million over the next five years to upskill 8,000 computer science teachers by the end of this Parliament. We also welcome the new National Centre for Computing Education, and the recognition that the UK’s world-class creative industries are growing at twice the rate of the economy and are heavily reliant on STEM skills.

As mentioned above, we believe we can help the Government to ‘deepen the understanding of the gender disparity in STEM subject choices at ages 16 to 19’, if data regarding STEM subjects is released, by institution and subject. Also interesting are plans to explore (building on the work of the Skills Advisory Panels and local Digital Skills Partnerships in England) how data analytics can be used to improve our understanding of employer demand for skills.

At Founders4Schools, we can combine many of these objectives. By sharing National Pupil’s Database (NPD) data via an API, we can unlock information about local jobs that specifically require STEM skills and help teachers to provide critical feedback to share with everyone about what works.

As we said in our initial response, the introduction of new T Levels from 2020 is a great step forward, with the commitment of putting technical education on the same footing as our academic system. We welcome the additional £20m investment announced in the Budget Statement last week. T Levels will give young people more options, with structured programmes including work experience which will help them take advantage of new prospects, particularly in deprived areas. Further, the commitment to addressing employer and student needs and expectations through the creation of a new regulator, the Office for Students (OfS) is a step forward.

We also recognise the value created by the investments in the new Institute of Coding, the Ada, National College for Digital Skills and new digital platforms to expand the reach of STEM Ambassador and CREST Awards programmes.

But many teachers, as well as their students, need to upgrade their digital skills, so F4S welcomes the establishment of a National Retraining Scheme to help people re-skill and up-skill as the economy changes. Also, the investment of £30m to test the use of AI and innovative education technology (EdTEch) in online digital skills courses.

We agree that ‘our problem is not unemployment caused by technology, it is low earning power caused by the, among other reasons, a failure to use technology’. Our focus is on helping teachers to become more digital and therefore help their students become more productive.

EdTech offers the ideal solution for this and we have proposed a new coalition for careers education in schools by creating a digital toolkit and guidance that will enable up to 500,000 educators across the UK working in primary education, to feel more confident about understanding and preparing their students for the world of work.

We welcome the Government’s significant investment into R&D that has commercial application and so has a bearing on productivity. Our leadership in the 2017 European Innovation Scorecard is impressive.  We would argue that significant investment is taking place by the forward-thinking business leaders to who come to speak on our behalf in schools. But these growing businesses need support to grow.

At Founders 4 Schools, we agree with the need to ensure that the national system works across the country, making a real difference in areas of most need. We focus our services in the Government’s Opportunity Areas, where we aim to address regional disparities and break down barriers that widen socio-economic divides that increase young people in NEET categories and reduce their chances for further education. We work closely with devolved government, LEP’s and the Careers and Enterprise Company, as well with business leaders in these areas.

We therefore welcome the investment of £72m in the Opportunity Areas programme and £42m to pilot a Teacher Development Premium, allowing for high quality professional development for teachers in areas that have fallen behind. We also look forward to seeing the Local Industrial Strategies emerge, and can work with Government to identify how the greater access to technical education in these areas can help raise employability skills.

Our approach is one of partnership – between educators, businesses, local government, devolved administrations – to achieve goals. We believe this is the only way to achieve the kind of scale we need to up-skill young people and prepare them for the world of work. The launch of Workfinder – our mobile app to connect 16-18 year-olds with work experience in their local area is just one example, and we welcome the Government’s focus on helping to increase the number of students who undertake work experience to develop their professional skills and ways of accrediting work experience in degrees.

There is an urgent need to accelerate the transformation, or we will leave a generation behind while we figure out what to do next. Many of us are already making substantive progress. The Industrial Strategy provides an excellent framework for progress, if the Government directs and releases finances for us NOW to move ahead and deliver. We want to continue to be part of that change that improves living standards and economic growth across the country

Sixteen-year-old girl who inspired Workfinder app opens doors for thousands of young women in Newcastle

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  • New ‘Trip Advisor’ style App connects students to work experience in less than 5 minutes;
  • Newcastle to benefit from up to 5,000 work experience scholarships for 16-18 year-old women to work in digital companies and charities;
  • Funded by £200k investment from social tech investor, Nominet Trust;
  • Preparing girls for jobs of the future the ‘challenge of a generation’.


NEWCASTLE, UK – 29 November 2017: Gov-tech education charity Founders4Schools (F4S), whose mission is to connect inspiring business leaders with schools, has today announced the creation of a scholarship fund to benefit thousands of young women across Newcastle with work experience opportunities. These roles are on offer to girls aged 16 to 18, as the charity puts powerful tools into the hands of girls looking for work experience in the city’s thriving digital sector.

The placements will be available through F4S’ ground-breaking mobile-phone app Workfinder, which was inspired by sixteen-year-old Maitri Panchal while she was on work experience with the charity herself. Workfinder enables young people to filter preferences, share recommendations and connect with great companies in as little as five minutes.

The opportunities are offered in fast-growing digital and tech Newcastle businesses, including NRG, printed.com and hedgehog lab. They help young people unlock their potential and kick- start their careers using STEM skills. The Newcastle scholarships for girls have been made possible through funding from social tech investors Nominet Trust, amongst others.

Speaking at a Founders4Schools event: Future Forward: Connecting Young People to the Future World of Work at the Boiler Shop, Newcastle today, Sherry Coutu, CBE, Chair of Founders4Schools and The ScaleUp Institute, said: “The current work experience model is broken. According to the ScaleUp Institute, 90% of UK scaleup businesses are concerned about a lack of skills post-Brexit but existing structures do not allow UK plc. to foster home- grown skills.”

Work Experience helps young people grow their skills and businesses benefit from much needed talent, but the reliance on informal networks means that many pupils in deprived areas secured no work experience at all last year. During November, UK digital businesses have come together to pledge to offer, via Workfinder, week-long work-experience placements that are needed by the 1.8 million 16-18 year-old students in UK schools.
Sherry Coutu continued: “93% of teachers say that work experience boosts student attainment and aspirations. Great companies are learning environments and need talent to grow; young people need help to find their passion in life. It’s the challenge of a generation, and I hope Workfinder will give them the power to discover their route to a meaningful career.”
Vicki Hearn, Director of Nominet Trust added: “Nominet Trust’s purpose is to transform lives with tech – but that’s only possible if we give the next generation, regardless of their background and circumstance, the opportunity to develop digital skills. We’re excited about continuing our partnership with Founders4Schools by funding 5,000 placements available through Workfinder in major UK cities, because of the opportunity it gives to young women to develop careers in STEM subjects, boosting their contribution to the UK’s growing digital economy.”

Sam Mcloughlin, Business Engagement Manager, Studio West, said: “We guarantee our students aged 16 and over two days a week of work experience with companies in the Newcastle area. I have seen countless times the dramatic impact this has on young people. When they return, students tell us they are inspired and have confidence to pursue a career they may not have known existed before. The opportunities Founders4Schools is opening up are vital and Workfinder makes it easier than ever before to help students connect their learning to the world of work.”
Simone Roche, Founder, Northern Power Women, said “I welcome this brilliant initiative to give young women in Newcastle the opportunity to grow their skills. For the whole region it’s vital that we grow our talent base and foster gender equality. I urge others to also support the work Founders4Schools are doing.”

Lauren Garey, Chair of Founders4Schools’ Diversity Advisory Committee, added: “It’s critical that businesses work with young talent to address the gender imbalance within the technology sector. One of our partners, Martha Lane Fox at Dot Everyone, recently stated that the technology sector accounts for 67% of women-led businesses in the UK, but women currently occupy only 17% of technology jobs and 4% of software engineering jobs. Providing work experience and first-hand experience to STEM careers will help to ensure that our future leaders, investors and entrepreneurs come from the widest pool of diverse talent.

Therese Liddle, CEO, NRG, said: “As a leading recruitment agency in the North East, NRG are delighted to support Founders4Schools. We have strong partnerships with companies across all sectors and know that, while many are already supporting young people, many more would appreciate the opportunity to do so. Fostering the skills and talents of the upcoming generation is critical to our wider economic and social success and we believe that Workfinder is a brilliant platform to create that vital link between education, business and young people.”

Catherine Boland, HR Manager, printed.com, said: “Offering work experience produces great benefits to the business as well as students and I would encourage other companies to do it. We have developed a programme that is meaningful and in the process, we reflect on our own organisation and the skills we look for in future talent. Plus, employee engagement is boosted as teams enjoy being involved and value supporting the local community.”

Workfinder can be downloaded by students to connect to these and other work experience opportunities free of charge from the app store.

Teachers can find out about Workfinder here: http://bit.ly/2iXg6Ks. Parents can find out about Workfinder here: https://www.workfinder.com/

Businesses willing to host work experience at their companies can sign up here: https://www.workfinder.com/employer/pledge

State of the Nation 2017: Careers and Enterprise Provision in England’s Schools

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By Sherry Coutu, CBE

Times have never been more challenging for educators, who have been tasked to transition the academic assessment of young people while keeping an eye on their prospects beyond school, at this critical point in the UK’s history. It would be easy for adequate careers provision to fall down the gap, but in truth hundreds of schools across England and Scotland are making significant efforts to improve careers and enterprise provision.

The recent report from the Careers and Enterprise Company:  State of the Nation 2017: Careers and Enterprise Provision in England’s Schools, is a welcome contribution to the debate about how we equip our young people for the world of work. The CEC have built on the 2014 research published by Sir John Holman in Good Career Guidance (2014) and allowed us to see schools’ progress against the standards set by Gatsby Benchmarks since then.

At Founders4Schools, we understand the challenge, having worked with more than 500 teachers, schools and businesses and brokered requests for over 250,000 student-employer encounters for 100,000 students to date.

Our mission is to ensure every young person gets encounters with employers each year, while they are between the ages of 8 and 16, and 140 hours of work experience while they are between the ages of 16 and 24.

Our services, which take just minutes to set up, include a wide range of employer engagement activities such as careers talks, careers fairs, work shadowing days, employability programmes and work experience. We work with partners including Department for Education, Careers and Enterprise Company, LEPs and enterprises such as LinkedIn and Duedil to help schools meet requirements quickly and easily.

No other provider makes it as easy for educators to subscribe to twenty-three diverse types of student-employer encounter and our personalised guidance builds upon research commissioned by the Royal Society, Education Endowment Foundation as well as the CEC.

So, why is it so important to connect young people with business leaders? 100% of net new jobs in the economy come from companies less than 4 years old….just the scaleups that our services are set up to reach. Bringing these founders into schools and encouraging them to offer work placements locally, makes perfect sense.

94% of students who have met business leaders via F4S tell us they are inspired, and their teachers report they are three times more likely to go on to consider studying a STEM subjects that will give them critical science, engineering and technology skills. This could help close the gap in skills shortages that the Open University reports are costing UK businesses £2bn a year, and re-assure the 40% of businesses who are concerned about a lack of skills post-Brexit (IoD).

I’m a strong believer in the standardisation that the Gatsby Benchmarks bring to delivering achievable standards of schools’ careers and enterprise provision, and the consistency with which they are used provides an excellent foundation for planning and measuring performance. In fact, we have mapped F4S services to Gatsby benchmarks to help schools edge closer to fully reach more benchmarks as part of a planned programme of activity.

For example, we provide personalised guidance based on the latest research in careers and enterprise (personal guidance benchmark), have a mission to get every pupil in the UK to four annual employer-encounters (encounters with employers & employees) and our advanced filtering system allows educators to choose speakers best suited to inspire their pupils (addressing the needs of each pupil).

The CEC report is encouraging in showing that, of those schools that completed the survey, more are achieving more benchmarks compared to 2014. The excellent Compass tracking tool that CEC employs also found that there is no statistically significant relationship between the characteristics of the school or the labour market in which it is situated, and the number of Benchmarks achieved. This is great as it demonstrates the true universality of Gatsby Benchmarks in enabling a level playing field between schools in challenging circumstances and more advantaged schools.

But my big concern is that we are not moving fast enough and so will let down a generation of young people, as well as the growing base of potential employers who need a new skills base to emerge, at this crucial time. Work we have done in Stirling this year has demonstrated a significant uplift to nearly 800 Student-Employer Encounters (SEE’s) per 1,000 students (surpassing every local authority in the UK) due to the collaboration and leadership provided by the local council and by the provision of a workshop for headteachers which got them directly involved.

Only by working at the most senior levels within schools did we unlock resistance by helping them understand how with just a little investment of time we can create great outcomes for young people and significantly improve Ofsted results around effective careers provision at the same time.

cumulative SEE's per 1000 Students

It is clear from the CEC Report that most schools are not reporting in Compass. Progress is being made, but it is disappointing that even those who are reporting show that over 20% of schools are not achieving any Benchmarks at all.

At F4S we are working with the CEC to help with:

    • Guides for head teachers to demonstrate what works and offer local insight reports;
    • An Insight report based on the Gatsby Benchmarks that can celebrate each school as it ‘moves up a level’, and help guide those who need help to progress;


  • Ways to enable us to feed results from schools that work with us directly into Compass and so make reporting easier.

F4S can embed employer feedback of encounters in our Teacher Dashboard. We provide clear guidance on which encounter types to book and when, using algorithms to recommend the most impactful encounter types in the local jobs market to enhance the combination of encounters that young people under their care receive. We want to scale this to enable educators to achieve more Gatsby Benchmarks, and be able to track students’ experience in the process.

So, how can schools embed a successful careers strategy? The Careers and Enterprise Company report highlights success factors from schools that do it brilliantly:

    • A careers programme must be fully embedded within the school;
    • Educators need to draw on a wide range of employer engagement activities, including careers talks, careers fairs, work shadowing days, employability programmes, work experience;
    • Access to local careers information is critical. F4S makes real-time local market information easily available to help students understand where their passions lie and connect them with the most relevant local employers;


  • Meeting with universities, colleges and apprenticeship providers is helpful. This should extend to new Institutes of Technology;


    • Personal guidance from a dedicated head of careers. Working with a committed ambassador within the local authority has proved very powerful for getting things moving, and maintaining momentum;
    • The work of the Enterprise Advisor Network is vital in connecting valuable services to schools;


  • The use of tools, such as Kudos, can connect careers education through a range of subjects and help all staff to become more involved in the careers programme, gaining CPD points along the way;


  • The opportunity to serve up work experience placements for older students is crucial. We developed Workfinder, our work experience app, as a service to that allows young people to not only rate work experience but to discover local opportunities, right there in their pockets.

We can help support schools in all these ways, and so build your schools’ success in relation to the Gatsby Benchmarks.

Sherry Coutu, CBE

Founders4Schools Chairman Sherry Coutu CBE Joins Sky News To Discuss The Talent Crisis

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Founders4Schools Founder and Chairman Sherry Coutu CBE today discussed the growing skills crisis with Sky News presenters Sarah Jane Mee and Jonathan Samuels.

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Sherry discussed the importance of offering meaningful work placements to create a talent pipeline and announced the launch of Workfinder, which will connect great, growing companies across the country with engaged 16-24 year olds.

The app enables young people to search their local area and find opportunities. By putting power into their hands and opening up opportunities beyond the traditional employers, Workfinder aims to see every single young person getting the experience they need to hit the ground running when they start their first jobs.

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How Ed-tech Can Help Close The Skills Gap And Improve Employability For Young People

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Written by Sherry Coutu CBE, Chairman, Founders4Schools and The ScaleUp Institute

There is a wide body of material about the skills crisis facing the UK, and rightly so. Research from the Social Market Foundation & EDF (2017) shows that 640,000 STEM jobs will need to be filled in the next 6 years. As many as 65% of these jobs haven’t even been invented yet, according to research shared by RAND Europe. The acquisition of skills to do the jobs of today, let alone the jobs of the future, are critical across all age groups.

I applaud the dedication of the Corsham Institute and others, many of who are also writing for Observatory, to collaborate with Government, citizens and other stakeholders, and address the critical issues raised in our digital age. We need to continue to shout about it, and I commend the BBC teams for a fabulous job at raising awareness – long may it continue!


Founders4Schools’ mission builds on the excellent careers research done by the Careers & Enterprise Company and others that demonstrate how vital it is to ensure that every young person gets at least four encounters with employers each year, while they are between the ages of 8 and 16, and 140 hours of work experience while they are between the ages of 16 and 24.

We are an EdTech organisation dedicated to make sure these connections improve the life chances of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who lack access to professional role models, by connecting them to business leaders. Advances in technology help make these connections easier and scalable.  

Such encounters improve the employability of young people by helping them understand the skills they need and enabling them to make informed decisions about their future. Our success has allowed us to work with thousands of teachers, schools and businesses to broker requests for over 250,000 student-employer encounters for 100,000 students to date.  

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I am excited by the findings of the Corsham Institute’s Thought Leadership reports (2017), on how digital technologies can make education more efficient and accessible, particularly to reach isolated groups of all ages. As we know, it’s critical for the future employment market that we inspire more young people to take STEM subjects, whether at A Level or T Level. For the here and now there is also a need to focus on refresher training and knowledge transfer for all ages.  

The Open University reports (Telegraph, 2 July) that skills shortages are costing UK businesses £2bn a year. That’s one indication of the cost of the huge, economy-damaging shortage in candidates for technology, science and data jobs. This year, less than 1 per cent of students took an A level in computing and only 15% studied a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths) subject. We should be especially concerned about the uneven playing field in acquiring STEM skills regionally, which expands socio-economic differences in society, and the lack of appeal of these subjects to girls.  

ASPIRES research highlights that STEM engagement falls in young women from 72% at age 10 to just 19% at age 18. They are far more likely to want to become a celebrity or hairdresser! The team’s focus on science highlights the need to shift the conversation in ways that broaden young people’s views of where it can lead. Arguably, that approach could apply to all STEM subjects, across the spectrum of age and background.

We are pleased the Government has taken forward the recommendations of the Report of the Independent Panel on Technical Education, chaired by Lord Sainsbury (2016), and the Post-16 Skills Plan into a T Level Action Plan (2017). It’s great that the first three ‘T’ Level courses in 2020 will include Digital, along with Construction, Education and Childcare. To make these courses as ‘rigorous and respected as A Levels’ will require close engagement with employers and others to ensure skills needs are met. They must represent a broad but clear path to future occupation, incorporating apprenticeships and other substantial work placements with an employer.

At Founders4Schools we know that helping educators connect young people with inspirational leaders, especially women, helps shift that conversation. I believe, in extending that to include work experience, and applying digital solutions, we can make it even easier – and scalable.

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Collaborations – those that are ‘stepping in’

You’ll know from The Scaleup Report (2014) that 82% of scaleups say they could grow their businesses if applicants had the required skills. As the founder of the ScaleUp Institute, I know there are legions of growing companies across the UK who would relish tapping into and helping to create a pipeline of talent. But these companies are not always front of mind when teachers and parents are guiding young people’s work experience choices, and they often don’t have the resources to market themselves.

It’s a focus because 99% of companies are small and 100% of net new jobs in the economy come from companies less than 4 years old.

Using our technology, a young person is introduced to business leaders through encounters such as Career Talks, Mock Interviewing, or Career Fairs that we help an educator facilitate. These lay the foundation for further engagement. Workplace visits are recommended to start to put into greater context what young people have learned in the classroom.


94% of students who have met business leaders via F4S tell us they are inspired and their teachers report they are three times more likely to go on to consider studying a STEM subject. Further, research with Education and Employers Taskforce by Professor Anthony Mann et. al. (2017) found that just four encounters with business leaders render a child 86% less likely to become NEET (not in employment, education or training) beyond school-age years.

It works! We recently celebrated our Founders4Schools 2017 awards at the Crick Institute in London and I was bowled over by the ways in which we have collaborated with educators, business leaders and partners in ways that have genuinely made a difference to the lives of young people. Amongst many others, we recognised Kathryn Loughnan from Avonbourne College in Bournemouth, who has facilitated 1,740 student-employer encounters (SEE’s) since 2013, and Nick Cheese, School Co-ordinator, Greenwood Academy, Birmingham, who after bringing in business leaders to inspire 150 Year 9 students showed us a way to incorporate a career co-ordinator journey into our service.

However, the award for demonstrating the potential for scalability of our services must go to Stirling Council, who in just a few months in 2017 have reached nearly 800 SEE’s per 1,000 students. Through leadership and true collaboration across the community, they are now leading the way in Scotland.

Work experience builds on that, which is why it should be an important part of future qualifications, and integral to career guidance for young people. The Gatsby Foundation ‘Good Career Guidance’ Report (2014) states that, by the age of 16, every pupil should have had at least one experience of the workplace.

So, here are some of the ways that Founders4Schools is using technology to help.   

Technology in Education


Lord Sainsbury’s report called on Government to help schools and colleges embed the fifteen technical education routes into careers education and guidance, saying “It is important the labour market data used to form the routes provides information relevant to the current and likely future labour market” and made a recommendation to the ONS to make the Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) more relevant for stakeholders.

At Founders4Schools, we have integrated information sources and AI technologies to make recommendations to educators so they can arrange student-employer encounters based on their preferred criteria in just minutes. This enables them to arrange over twenty different types of student-employer encounters, with our personalised guidance delivering tangible outcomes aimed to improve social mobility and help close the skills gap. This work builds upon research commissioned by our Partners including the Royal Society, Careers & Enterprise Company and Education Endowment Foundation.  

In our response to the Green Paper, Building our Industrial Strategy (2017), we supported the call for ‘Open Science’, by the release of API’s to key datasets. We see significant benefits in connecting the UK measurement strategy with the National Pupil’s Database (NPD) and are encouraged by the focus on unlocking data in the Digital Strategy. If the Department for Education allowed this via an API (that protects the identity of students) to the NPD we could prove the impact of our work at a fraction of the cost, help teachers and provide critical feedback to share with everyone about what works.  

We also applaud the support provided by the Mayor of London to us in providing access to the machine-readable datasets via the London 2050 Mapping Application for infrastructure and would very much like to see the availability of such information up and down the country to assist further collaborations.

Work experience

We developed Workfinder to help students explore and find work experience placements in their local communities. The Founders4Schools App is now being rolled out with thousands of start-ups, scale ups and large companies signed up including LinkedIn, Sage, Duedil, Zoopla and Salesforce.com.

By downloading a free service, young people can access fast growing businesses, including Scale-Ups and SMEs in their local community. They can view, shortlist and apply to companies that interest them using our proprietary recommendations. They will have personalised recommendations to guide them to 140 hours of work experience placements in a variety of businesses.

It has historically been difficult to identify enough work experience opportunities for young people, but Workfinder makes this much easier through increasing and broadening the range of potential work experience opportunities. Local businesses love it because they have a personal connection and the opportunity to attract new talent.

Careers Advice

As highlighted in the Corsham Institute Thought Leadership report: ‘The role of the educator is changing and we need to support teaching staff to recognise the benefits of using digital technology both as a source of information and as a teaching aid…” At Founders4Schools, we are building on the work of the Royal Society, CBI and CEC to enable more online training for educators, so they can better equip themselves to advise their students on the career choices in front of them.

The Royal Society’s Vision 2020 report called on new, independent, expert bodies that draw on the wider STEM professional community to step up, and called for a sustained effort to give teachers time and resources to undertake subject-specific professional development. I am passionate about finding ways to help teachers develop their own understanding of careers and the changing needs of the post-education employment market to students, while developing their own digital skills.


We applaud the work of the CEC to train and equip enterprise advisors in 1,000 schools so that teachers are aware of the best-evidenced employability initiatives. We are pleased to have developed the Careers and Enterprise dashboard (available to see on our website) that reports on the progress being made in each Local Enterprise Partnership area.

This means we can track student-employer encounters per 1,000 and celebrate the work being done, for example, by Camden Council in the London LEP who, with the drive of schools like The UCL Academy and Rhyl Primary School, have achieved 749 student employer encounters per 1,000 students. 

In conclusion, I welcome the launch of Observatory and the debates that will flow from these pages. There is a lot of great work being done, focused on some clear and pressing issues. Through ongoing collaborations and by the sharing of key information, I am certain that we will make a positive and tangible difference for future generations.

If you would like to offer work experience or workplace visits – our onboarding process takes less than 30 seconds at www.founders4schools.com.

If you’d like to encourage schools to turn to us for help contacting local businesses, please point them in our direction. It takes just a few minutes at  www.founders4schools.com.

Founders4Schools is an Ed-Tech charity dedicated to improving the life chances of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds by connecting them to business leaders.

Sherry Coutu CBE chairs both the ScaleUp Institute & Founders4Schools.


Future Forward: Boosting Youth Employability In The North East of England

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You are invited to join Founders4Schools to explore and celebrate how the North East of England community is preparing students for the future of work.

A keynote speech will be given by Sherry Coutu CBE, recently awarded as The Most Influential Woman In UK IT by Computer Weekly.

Date and time: Wed 29 November 2017, 17:00 – 19:30

LOCATION: The Boiler Shop, 20 South Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 3PE


Barclays Digital Development Index Report

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Our world is changing. The digital revolution is affecting us all, at home and at work. It offers new opportunities and greater choice, but is also disrupting the way we live our lives.

We want Britain to thrive in the digital economy. And we want to help British businesses to compete in the global marketplace. In response to this Barclays have produced this research which aims to understand how well prepared the UK workforce is for the digital economy.

Based on a survey of 10,000 working adults in 10 countries, it provides an international comparison of current levels of digital skills and confidence in emerging and developed economies, including some major economic rivals to the UK as well as new ‘Digital Tigers’ Estonia, South Korea and Sweden. The full report From Inclusion to Empowerment: The Barclays Digital Development Index includes insights and commentary from a range of leading experts and explores the steps needed to develop digital skills and confidence further across the UK.


Founders4Schools New Feature Update

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At Founders4Schools we pay close attention to the needs of our community of educators, business leaders and partners. We know that you have very little time to spare so we work hard to make life easy. Here are the latest upgrades to our service for 8 to 16 year olds.

F4S upgrades

Personalised recommendation engine. We have introduced a recommendation engine to show the six top matched business leaders. Educators can still personalise their search to suit the needs of young people using filters such as gender and industry.

Filter business leaders by language. Educators can now specify which languages business leaders speak and they can search for those languages within the curriculum filter field on the business leaders search page.

Curriculum search box. Educators can now use a curriculum search box in addition to the existing tick boxes on the business leaders search page.

Encounter end time. When using ‘Quick Request‘ to create an encounter, we have now added an ‘end time’ so business leaders are aware of the event’s duration.

Insight alerts. We have improved the user experience for the subscriber event alerts in the insight section.

We look forward to seeing how our new features are adopted!