Visionpath Education & Osborne Clarke: Collaborating on the launch of SKILL! Bristol
Visionpath Education creates inspiring learning programmes that connect young people with leading employers, generating opportunities to share skills and raise aspirations; ultimately aiding students’ social mobility by engaging them in the skills attractive to employers. Visionpath’s flagship initiative is SKILL!, a programme of interactive enterprise workshops helping young people develop communication, presentation and interpersonal skills; all vital in enhancing their employability.
Visionpath’s partnership with international law firm Osborne Clarke dates back to 2008, when the firm was a partner in the launch of SKILL! in London. This support continued into 2009, after which time opportunities to work together were limited. However, both sides were keen to reactivate their partnership at the earliest opportunity.
Osborne Clarke was looking for a programme that would fulfil the firm’s ambition of enhancing the education and employability of young people in the South West, one of its key territories. The firm had a long-standing partnership with Merchants’ Academy, a school close to their office in Bristol. Osborne Clarke was also looking for a programme that could strengthen the firm’s relationship with the academy.
Further to this, Osborne Clarke was seeking a programme that could engage staff through skills-based volunteering, so they could use their skills, knowledge and expertise to make a difference.
Having successfully established SKILL! in London, reaching over 900 young people in three years, Visionpath Education was keen to expand the programme to other UK cities. They were looking to trial SKILL! in cities where young people experienced issues similar to those faced by young people in London, chiefly around socio-economic disadvantage and a lack of social mobility. Bristol was top of their list of locations to pilot the programme.
Visionpath Education and Osborne Clarke collaborated on the development of a pilot SKILL! Workshop in Bristol, which took place at the firm’s offices on 18th November 2011. Visionpath also secured global accountancy firm PwC as a second partner on the project.
Working with Year 10 students from Merchants Academy, where Osborne Clarke had a long-standing partnership, the SKILL! Workshop engaged students in an enterprise-focused learning experience that helped them gain a valuable insight into the ‘soft skills’ that are attractive to employers. With facilitation from social entrepreneur Matt Kepple and ex-ITN newsreader Katie Ledger, the workshop was a unique experience for young people and corporates in the South West.
As part of the workshop, Visionpath engaged staff from both Osborne Clarke and PwC as ‘Team Mentors’. This light-touch skills-based volunteering opportunity enabled staff from both firms to deploy skills they use every day in their working lives, to support and enhance students’ learning.
The SKILL! Workshop with Osborne Clarke and PwC reached 40 Year 10 students from Merchants’ Academy in Bristol. The majority of the students were studying business and enterprise, but c.25% of students were selected to participate based on the anticipated amplification to their broader learning, as determined by the school.
Feedback from the students showed 70% of participants rated the experience as ‘Excellent’, with the remaining 30% rating the workshop as ‘Very Good’. Students commented on how the workshop had been “…a really interesting and fun session” and “a great learning experience”. They highlighted how the session had given them “confidence in the business world” and helped them understand how to put ideas forward, work as a team, communicate their thoughts and listen more to others.
Teachers commented on how the skills students were learning were “easily transferable” to the academic environment and could clearly enhance students’ curricular and extra-curricular activities.
Eight mentors from Osborne Clarke contributed to the workshop, with a further eight mentors from PwC. Feedback from mentors has been very positive, with 100% of mentors rating the workshop as ‘Excellent’ or ‘Very Good’. Mentors noted how the mentoring opportunity had been a useful learning and development exercise, allowing them to enhance their coaching, communication, mentoring and listening skills.
Visionpath Education will be creating a programme of SKILL! Workshops in Bristol from 2012. Both Osborne Clarke and PwC are keen to remain involved with the programme, offering further mentoring opportunities to their staff and supporting the development of more young people in the South West.
“[The workshop] was very inspiring and gave me the chance to learn the skills of business. I loved it, because I love business.”
Student from Merchants’ Academy
“The SKILL! Programme is a fantastic project to be involved with. The focus on increasing employability skills with the students from Merchants Academy is something Osborne Clarke has been working on for some time. The workshop was innovative and fun and, from the feedback received, was a very valuable experience for students. Our staff, who mentored students during the workshop, also learned and developed new skills through the programme. We look forward to working with Visionpath Education again in the near future.”