A recruitment boss is urging businesses to inspire the next generation of employees by ‘paying it forward’ with work placements.

Benchmark founder Louisa Harrison-Walker joined the board of Higher Education Progression Partnership (Hepp) after becoming guest speaker at the Higher Education Progression Partnership South Yorkshire Plus (HeppSY+) Annual Conference last summer, providing delegates with an employer perspective.

HeppSY+ is a joint partnership between Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) and The University of Sheffield and works with schools and colleges across the Sheffield City Region to raise aspirations, provide information about higher level skills and higher education and support progression into areas like apprenticeships.

Carol Castle, SHU Director of Student Recruitment and Admissions, said: “Louisa makes a significant contribution to the HEPP Board.  She is uniquely placed to understand the strategic challenges for our region and to represent employers more broadly to ensure HEPP is a rich partnership, able to maximise employer contributions to supporting development of higher-level skills.”

Said Louisa: “Operating a recruitment business puts me in the privileged position of having the ears of many employers and insights into how education and commerce can work more closely. From the skills research we undertook with Sheffield City Region, we know there is a discrepancy in employers looking to employ people with one to two years’ experience when, in reality, people leaving education will not have this luxury.

“I’ve worked in Sheffield for nearly 20 years and I know from the network of contacts I’ve built up the skills employers tell me are missing in school-leavers and that’s often soft skills like innovation and creativity – areas that aren’t taught. Benchmark can then act as a gateway and feed that back to those in higher education so they can better reflect those areas in their course content.”

Added Louisa: “It’s good for social mobility if we can inform and advise young students about the opportunities available to them and increase the number progressing into higher education and apprenticeships, then, as a result, better skilled, better paid jobs.

“But I also want to encourage employers to consider ‘paying it forward’ by providing students work placements or project work. By offering hands-on experience, they will not only be inspiring the next generation but pipelining the people of our future workforce.”

Businesses wanting to get involved should visit the Sheffield Skills Improvement Forum LinkedIn page.

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