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In conversation with David Baines, Project Manager, Turner & Townsend

David recently started working with the North East LEP Skills Team to help with the project management of the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks pilot’s Innovation Fund.

Each of the 16 schools and colleges participating in the national Career Guidance Benchmarks pilot can bid for the Innovation Fund. This is money specifically set aside by the pilot funders, the Gatsby Foundation, to help them achieve the Benchmarks. The Skills Team tasked me with ensuring the Innovation Fund projects are completed within an acceptable timescale, and to measure and demonstrate overall impact.

This is a different area of work to my usual ‘day job’, however, the principle is still the same – tracking projects to ensure that they’re delivered on time, to cost and to quality. The schools all have a different approach when it comes to applying innovation to achieve the Benchmarks, and planning out the best way of monitoring progress and reporting has been really interesting so far.

The projects cover a range of different areas. Churchill Community College is implementing a ‘Career Zone’, with simulated employer sessions for years 7 and 8 pupils. Other schools are working together to improve the tracking of student information, known as ‘destination data’. Another project reaching a range of institutions is ‘Digital Encounters’; reviewing the use of digital media in the UK and how it can be applied for careers education.

In addition to measuring success, I’m also responsible for helping schools identify and resolve challenges. ‘Parental engagement’ has been reported as one of the most testing elements so far. Schools and colleges have worked together to plan an approach to resolving this, including involving parents early on, and providing as much communication as possible. The Innovation Fund has also supported a specific project focusing on supporting parents and carers as the key influencers in a young person’s career aspirations, and strategies that can be taken to maximise engagement.

The breadth of Innovation Fund projects demonstrates how many different elements there are that make up a successful careers programme. When this element of the pilot is finished, we’d like to see a successful compilation of activities that other schools in the UK can replicate, or learn from, when rolling out the Benchmarks themselves. A ‘lessons learned’ log will also help inform them.  Ultimately, we’re working towards being able to demonstrate impact both in terms of return on investment and school results, crucial for getting buy-in from schools.

David will continue working with the pilot schools and colleges, with the output being a final report demonstrating the Innovation Fund’s impact and tangible ideas for other areas to implement.