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6 February, 2016 - 21:38

Building a pipeline of talent for Cambridge

Professor Michael Thorne

One way in which we can build a talent pipeline for Cambridge companies is to grow our own, writes Professor Michael Thorne, vice-chancellor Anglia Ruskin University.

With two universities in the city we can attract and retain talent from across Britain and around the world. But in many cases, the choices around careers and the opportunity to develop the necessary skills starts much earlier – at school.

As Cambridge businesses grow and new businesses move in, we need to make sure that current students are developing the skills that employers will need in the future.

Several industries are already struggling to recruit employees with the right skills and others are predicting quite serious shortages if we don’t do something. By addressing predicted skills shortages we can help business recruit the talent they need, moving young people into successful careers.

Part of the challenge is ensuring that schools recognise what employers are looking for and can adapt their curriculum. The likes of the CBI and the British Chambers of Commerce have been very vocal about the mismatch between what young people are learning at schools and what skills they’ll need when they enter the workplace.

Our Education & Skills project group has brought school and college leaders together with employers to find solutions. One way we’ve done this is by building a new web portal for employers to connect directly with schools called Step Up. 

The site is managed by Form the Future CIC, a new social enterprise connecting schools with local businesses to enhance careers education and who are delivering the skills programme for the City Deal.

It mirrors the ethos of Cambridge Ahead: get business engaged in finding solutions. In this case it’s about giving their time to inform, influence and inspire students through careers events, mentoring and work placements. 

The scale of change in a place like Cambridge makes it impossible for schools to have the detailed knowledge of the emerging jobs and where the job opportunities will be in three, five, 10 years’ time. 

But employers do and students benefit hugely when they speak with them directly. Form the Future acts as a matchmaker between schools and business and Step Up will enable all businesses in the region to play their part.

Not everyone in Cambridge has benefitted from the Cambridge Phenomenon, and this is something we want to change. We’re particularly eager to engage the tech and scientific community and to attract girls into STEM careers. This not only builds the talent pipeline for our growing businesses but raises the earnings potential of young people who might otherwise be trapped in low paid jobs.

Many of the jobs advertised on Cambridge Network didn’t exist 10 years ago. Some are new this year. Who knows what’s coming next? But getting schools and businesses working together improves the chances that the next generation of employees in our region will have the necessary skills our businesses need.

Another element of the Education & Skills group agenda, is to lobby government over the per pupil funding formula. Over the last 20 years or so, Cambridgeshire schools have found themselves near and on too many occasions, at the bottom of the funding pool.

We are delighted that the Government announced in the Autumn Statement a complete review on this funding formula during 2016 and we will be working closely with our partners in the schools community, the county council and our local MPs to propose a formula that is fair and just for our schools.

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