The Furness Education & Skills Partnership
The Furness Education & Skills Partnership (FESP) has now been running for over two years since its launch with the intention of bringing the worlds of education and business closer together in the Furness area. The group was set up to replace the Furness Education Business Partnership, the last of its kind in Cumbria, which ceased operating in June 2011. Legacy funding from the defunct EBP has helped to fund the work of FESP, together with support from the Royal Academy of Engineering which has run the Barrow Engineering Project for local schools and colleges over the last five years.
The work of FESP so far has centred very successfully on the goal of developing a more active role for employers in the education of the children they will one day employ and six local companies (BAE Systems, Centrica, GlaxoSmithKline, Vattenfall, Tritech & Siemens Subsea) have committed to being core members of FESP.
Balancing business representation on FESP are education representatives from the primary, secondary (including Walney School) and FE sectors and this facilitates for a range of businesses clear, strategically efficient communication channels to all schools and colleges in the Furness area and through these to all students and their parents.
FESP has focused its energy on designing and seeking to offer "purposeful learning” to all young people in local schools. This kind of learning (putting learning in a "real” context) seeks to forge strong and mutually productive links between the world of work and the school curriculum with the goal of increasing learners’ engagement and helping to raise attainment. To this end, FESP education and business representatives continue to develop co-constructed projects linked to the work of Furness businesses. Within these projects the focus has been placed not only on subject content but also on a list of transferable skills identified and agreed by the FESP core businesses as those often particularly lacking in school leavers and young people attending for interview.
FESP sees every teacher, from the early years of primary upwards, as a careers teacher and, therefore, it inaugurated a series of visits to local businesses by teaching staff from all three education sectors in November 2011.These visits were repeated in the 2012/2013 academic year and FESP companies have already committed to a third round of visits in 2013/2014. The visits have given local companies the opportunity to showcase what they currently do and to highlight potential career paths. All the visits have been enormously informative, as evidenced by many positive comments from attending teachers, including several from Walney School, who have forged strong links with the business. This kind of on-going education/business collaboration has impacted on curriculum delivery, particularly of STEM subjects given the engineering and/or science focus of most of the core FESP companies.
Raising awareness of potential career pathways for young people, not only in the minds of young people themselves, but also in the minds of their teachers and their parents is a key objective for FESP. With this in mind, the group organised and helped to run the Furness Skills’ Fest in March 2013 (in conjunction with Inspira) a large central venue in Barrow-in-Furness. This well-attended event gave local companies the chance to talk with young people, their teachers and their parents and to underline the importance of acquiring appropriate qualifications and skills. FESP plans to organise a similar event in 2014.
As the new academic year begins, FESP is in the process of securing sponsorship to widen its activities. It has already received a financial commitment from three of its companies and a sub-group will be exploring other potential funding streams.