What’s the point of stakeholder engagement?
Gavin Clarke - Head of Economics, Emmanuel College
Recently, a colleague in the science department told me that one of his tutees had asked, ‘why on earth does Mr Clarke bother inviting all these people into college? What’s the point?’ I thought it apt to use this blog post to address how powerful and rewarding it can be for teachers to engage with stakeholders from business, further education, and the wider community.
A couple of years ago, I accompanied my A Level students to an economics conference where one of the main themes was income differentials. To this day, I’ve never forgotten the Professor talking about the fact that teachers may not earn vast salaries but they do benefit from a priceless ‘warm glow’; i.e. that feeling you get when a lesson goes well, or you finally win over a student who has been difficult to deal with, or your students achieve their personal best in their externally assessed exams. These are some of the things that give classroom teachers that ‘warm glow’, and, one of the reasons why it’s such a privilege to be a teacher. However, engaging with a network of stakeholders beyond the perimeter of your school can enrich the lives of all parties concerned, whilst at the same time helping to meet some of the Gatsby Benchmarks.
Alumni can showcase a multitude of career paths, and, perhaps more importantly for colleagues working in schools with high levels of social deprivation, alumni can be critical in raising aspirations and enhancing social mobility
From a classroom teacher’s perspective, engaging with the wider community can add to what is already a fulfilling career. Having the opportunity to meet new people each week adds another dimension to your job. At its most basic level, if you enjoy meeting new people, it’s a fun thing to do, and as various business theories attest, a happy employee is likely to be a more productive employee. I often tell my students that I ‘paint pictures with words’ as I attempt to jazz up what can sometimes be seen as a dry social science. Bringing a guest into the classroom, who is able to show your students the vast array of opportunities available to them with a qualification in your curriculum area, brings the subject to life in a way that is simply not possible in the context of classroom, teacher, student, and textbook. The impact is possibly even more powerful if you can take your students to a workplace where they can soak up the environment.
If you have been employed at your institution for more years than you care to remember, as I have, then networking on social media sites, such as LinkedIn et al, can be a useful tool for developing an alumni association, marvelling at how former students have progressed in their careers, and potentially building a network of stakeholders who will be very willing to engage with your school, be that in a personal capacity or a wider corporate/organisational capacity. Alumni can showcase a multitude of career paths, and, perhaps more importantly for colleagues working in schools with high levels of social deprivation, alumni can be critical in raising aspirations and enhancing social mobility. When your students see so many of their predecessors excelling in their chosen careers, it gives them greater self-belief.
The wider stakeholder community can be crucial in helping students to build their self-confidence and develop their communication skills. If your students can host a guest upon arrival at your school, engage a guest in adult conversation during a coffee break, or be bold enough to ask a guest some probing questions after their presentation, they will be all the better prepared for the real-world. The more frequently your students are placed in situations outside of their comfort zones, the better, and, just as you build your network of contacts, so too can your students begin to build their own. This can be very powerful when it comes to arranging workplace visits, work experience placements, and future employment.
If you have never reached out to business, education, or the wider community, I wholeheartedly encourage you to give it a try.
If you have never reached out to business, education, or the wider community, I wholeheartedly encourage you to give it a try. Lift the phone, send an email, connect and send a message via LinkedIn. In my experience, people are only too willing to help. You will be overwhelmed by the response! ‘What’s in it for them?’, I hear you ask. This is perhaps most helpfully answered by quoting a reply I received from an alumnus, ‘It would be an absolute pleasure to deliver something back to a school that opened so many doors for me’. Former students are only too keen to give back, and, even those who may be unfamiliar with your institution will invariably be more than happy to help.
If you are unsure about taking a leap into the world of employer engagement, don’t worry, help is at hand, in the form of the globalbridge platform. Not only does the platform provide a modern and powerful tool for students to showcase all of their talents, but it also supports routes into higher level education, workplace visits, employer engagements, and employment. Indeed, it’s a one-stop shop for meeting all of the Gatsby Benchmarks. What’s not to like about that?! As an early adopter of the platform, some of my students are already engaged in a fascinating collaboration with a number of employers (see here for further details).
It’s only right that I end this post by addressing the original question in an economic sense. I ‘invite all these people into college’ because collaborating with stakeholders in the wider community has many private, social, and external benefits. Of course, as with all things that are worth doing, there are associated costs; including time, stress, and finance. However, the overriding concern is to empower students, to give them an insight into their futures, and to enable them to make better decisions. ‘These people’ make this happen, without their collaboration, so many information asymmetries would persist.
Gavin Clarke is Head of Economics at Emmanuel College, Gateshead.