The last 10-15 years have seen a marked increase in institutional and governmental efforts to develop experiential learning and so-called ‘Employer Engagement’ opportunities in primary and secondary schools, in addition to their more traditional roles in higher education environments. While linking schools and employers would seem to benefit student outcomes in any socio-economic climate, this concerted effort to increase interaction with the world of work from an earlier age is also undoubtedly a sign of the times; as innovation breeds advancement and options, as well as unprecedented competition, it is no wonder that many of today’s students feel an overwhelming pressure to choose the “correct” path to success beyond the safety of the classroom. By enabling them to gain hands-on and in-person insight long before they are faced with these life-changing decisions, Employer Engagement experiences aim to empower students with the tools to make well-informed choices about their futures as they begin to consider their personal goals and skillsets.
A largely-UK-based initiative at its inception, Employer Engagement has found a natural home here at The British School of Brussels (BSB), an all-through international school with an enrolment of approximately 1,370 students. BSB maintains a conscious vision for 21st Century learning that is centred upon “…help[ing] our students develop a robust set of skills for their life in a century that is rapidly changing”. To this end, and from the vantage point of our landmark 50th year in education, BSB is making strides to adapt, addressing the complexities of this changing world by embedding Employer Engagement programming within our curricula. Our efforts thus far surround four main models that continue to evolve with each passing term: subject-specific in-class speakers; external site visits such as our annual Year 10 trip to the Solvay campus; Career Roundtables that offer Year 9-13 students an in-depth dialogue with professionals from a variety of paths; and Expert Panels reflecting on contemporary issues in professional development. Last spring’s AmCham-supported talk, entitled ‘Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained: workforce transitions in an age of automation’, will be followed by a second instalment this autumn tackling the future of education.
Instilling programming that is at once meaningful, impactful and relevant to BSB student needs requires close collaboration between school administration, teachers and partnering entities. Due to the inherently transitory nature of an international school such as BSB, where parents’ company contracts so often influence the duration of a child’s enrolment as well as their subsequent destination, students can especially benefit from programmes focused on developing highly-transferable professional skillsets. Time management, public speaking and professional writing remain essential areas to explore, while topics such as managing one’s online presence, leadership coaching and opportunities that position students as agents of change present rich new avenues for growth. Likewise, exposure to realistic professional stories that encompass a diversity of school-to-career pathways, both direct and non-linear, can expand students’ horizons and inspire confidence in the stability of their personal strengths in spite of changing circumstances.
BSB is proud to support our students and alumni as they strive to achieve academic, professional and personal success in its many forms, and we always welcome enthusiastic partnerships. If you and/or your organisation would like to be involved in BSB’s Employer Engagement programming, or would simply like to learn more, please do not hesitate to reach out to Amanda Nocera, our Employer Engagement and Alumni Coordinator.