“When I look at the classroom I think of Titans. They will be working for or creating tomorrow’s companies but they need our help.” Sherry Coutu CBE
Business and education leaders gathered at the City of London Club in November to hear serial entrepreneur, Ambassador for London and Chairman of Founders- 4Schools Sherry Coutu CBE deliver the Commercial Education Trust (CET) Third Annual Lecture.
Her talk From Classroom to Titan: transforming student attainment through business engagement, AI and data science urged those present in the packed-out venue to consider the labour market challenges of the digital age: the ever-increasing skills shortage combined with the rapid pace of change in our economies.
Large numbers of young people are at risk of becoming NEETS – not in education, training or employment. It is now, she argued, that employers and educators can refocus their efforts to support the talent of young people into the future and not just for a five-year timeframe: “but ten, twenty… the exogenous shocks that are disrupting our society are pretty extreme. On the one hand it is very, very exciting but on the other hand it causes people to feel uncomfortable.
“As a parent how do you guide your child? As a teacher how do you advise them? It is our responsibility as employers and educators to introduce them to who is creating the jobs so they can navigate in uncertain times, so they can answer the question: ‘What will you do when you grow up?’”
you grow up?’” For the next generation to become ‘titans’, Sherry Coutu argued, the business community has to get involved. The Economist predicts that “one billion young people will start work in the next decade – only 40 per cent in jobs that now exist”. Business leaders need to capture the imaginations of young people so that they can aspire to the real jobs of the future, so that “today’s students will be working for and creating tomorrow’s companies”.
Coutu revealed that few young people aim for careers such as engineering or science and the engagement in STEM declines dramatically for older students, particularly girls. And the costs of intervention to help young people become employable increases dramatically the older a student becomes. The cost of helping a 14-15 year old is negligible compared to those for 25 year-old.
The value of employer contacts at school and the difference they make to the employment prospects of young adults is well documented but alongside business engagement, AI, and data science also play a key role.
Sherry Coutu’s own charity – Founders4Schools – has been able to build a platform which facilitates business-student encounters at a local level and across the UK – and at no cost to the teachers who use their facility. “What if you knew the need and where all the schools are and how many students there are in every class – and what if you knew where all the businesses are and could put them there to chat? 2 seconds, that’s all it takes”
The potential to make a difference Coutu argued, is huge. Founders- 4Schools aims to have reached one million students by next year. In addition, in the future ‘big data’ will be able to help answer other questions as well and provide a more granular understanding of the kind of interventions that work, their frequency and the best age to deploy them. “The time is perfect and it is a very great need that we have at the moment”.