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School engagement with business

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Authors: Jo Earp
School engagement with business

What would schools like from business? And what kinds of school-business interactions could be of most benefit to students and schools?

This was the focus of a new study from the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) exploring attitudes towards school engagement with business. Writing in Research Developments [rd], ACER Principal Research Fellow Dr Sheldon Rothman says the study shows many schools are happy to contemplate all kinds of engagement with business.

‘More than 90 per cent of the schools surveyed want to expand or enhance their current engagement with business. The most common areas that schools want to expand or enhance were related to mentoring (desired by 75 per cent of schools), work experience (75 per cent), workplace visits (73 per cent) and careers talks, speakers and fairs (70 per cent).’

The Australian Business and Community Network (ABCN) commissioned the research. The not-for-profit organisation connects businesses and schools in low socioeconomic areas. The research involved surveys in 2018 and 2019: the first with schools working with ABCN, and the second with a sample of government schools in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland not involved with ABCN. At the time of the surveys, 98 per cent of the ABCN and 96 per cent of the sample schools were engaged with business.

The types of engagement are shown in the table below.

The new staffroom at Macgregor Primary School

Detailing the findings in a report released this month, Rothman says: ‘More than 90 per cent of schools are currently engaged with business in some way. For nearly all of these schools, this engagement comes in the form of work experience or vocational placements for students. But engagement with business should be more than work experience or vocational placements. Businesses can provide mentoring to students, teachers and school leaders, and help to develop students’ life skills that assist in fitting in to the workplace.’

The report adds the data indicate the value of school-business brokers in helping schools to understand the opportunities and benefits of engagement, and how to access these opportunities. ‘Schools that engage with business on their own … tend to work less frequently with national businesses, which have the resources to offer more in the way of mentoring or learning opportunities.’

Survey participants were asked about the reasons for engaging with business. The most common answers were: to increase student engagement in learning; linking learning to real-world problems; building student awareness and aspirations about potential careers; developing students’ understanding of current and future work environments; and, developing students’ future work capabilities (Rothman, 2019).

Both sets of schools surveyed focused their engagement on students in Year 10, rd reports, with only 16 per cent of ABCN and 7 per cent of sample schools choosing Year 7.

Read the full article: Exploring attitudes towards school engagement with business, published in ACER's Research Developments.

References

Rothman, S. (2019). What Do Schools Want from Engagement with Business? Camberwell, Australia: Australian Council for Educational Research. Retrieved from https://research.acer.edu.au/policy_analysis_misc/30

Thinking about your own school context: How often do you or your colleagues engage with business? Are these local or national businesses? What kinds of school-business interactions would be of most benefit to your students and school community? What are the barriers to increasing your schools’ engagement with business?

Craig Laffin 26 November 2019

My school has very active links with business. The college belongs to three regional/local chambers of commerce and I regularly attend meetings. We have held an Educational/Business day conference at school. Significant relationships are being established with business; mentoring, work experience, careers, lecturers and advice - AND the college putting into the mix too. The college has supported various projects conducted by business groups and initiated others.The relationship needs to be mutually beneficial. Such endeavours help prepare students for post school education/careers and community involvement. Our goal is to help students ‘build purposeful lives’. All approaches to business have been met with positive reception and willingness to assist and be involved. Educationalists need to view the ‘big picture’ and go beyond the more narrow confines of curriculum and in school activities.

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