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Let’s make this the summer we put teenagers on the path to a brighter future.

There has never been more pressure on teachers. Over the past year they’ve worked with kids in the classroom and those in lockdown at home – often simultaneously. They’ve had to deal with changes to exams and expectations. For the first time in history, their online lessons have allowed parents to listen-in and offer ‘constructive’ criticism. Often in real time.

And if all that wasn’t enough, those responsible for work experience have also had to adjust to Covid rules and regulations. So it is with mixed emotions that they are now preparing for the return of in-person work experience, just in time for the summer rush!

I have every sympathy. I may have founded Changing Education, but I’m also a qualified teacher, a dad, and someone whose first experience of the workplace was making beds in a hotel!

I’d be lying if I said that was an experience I enjoyed. But it was absolutely crucial in helping me understand what the workplace was all about. It’s almost impossible to make-up your mind about a career without some understanding of what’s involved. That would be like choosing a car without a test drive.

So this business has been built on a very simple principle: the more students who can spend time in a work environment the better. Not just for the experience it brings, but also the discipline it requires.

Providing so much experience for so many students in this day and age isn’t easy. It means:

1. Networking with huge numbers of employers to provide the opportunities
2. Arranging the logistics – which are quite different for in-person and virtual experience
3. Ensuring that regulations and benchmarks are met, including Ofsted and Gatsby
4. Knowing where everyone is at all times
5. Recording and reporting on results and performance
If you’re not a teacher, you’re probably beginning to understand quite what an undertaking this is, particularly when Covid changed everything and, vaccine permitting, it is about to all change back again!

Which is where EBPs come in. And yes, in case you weren’t already aware, here’s a disclaimer: we are an EBP! A big one, but by no means the only one.

An EBP is an Education Business Partner. And our business is taking the weight of all five steps off the shoulders of individuals within schools and colleges.

We do it by combining our passion for:

• Education in its widest sense
• Local communities and the importance of bringing young people into the workplace
• Tech – and the enormous amount of time and hassle it can save
• Innovation. We constantly look to do things differently and better

During the pandemic, we continued to make things happen. ‘Virtual’ experience became a realistic solution to the challenge posed by lockdown, and we will definitely keep it running, not least because it creates opportunities within specialist businesses outside of some students’ ‘commutable’ zone.

And now, with restrictions easing, we are throwing ourselves into providing, managing and reporting on a summer to remember.

We do it because we love it, every one of us. We’ve watched teens with learning difficulties thrive in new surroundings. We’ve heard shy students come out of their shells. We’ve seen parents amazed at the immediate change in focus and drive that a successful placement brings. We’ve received wonderful feedback from employers who see this as a direct and effective way to recruit for the future.

I regularly get asked what it’s like to run a tech company. The truth is, I don’t think about us being in ‘tech’. The Connect App and the dashboard we provide for teachers to keep all their students’ placements in view are just the tools that make redundant all the paperwork and admin that turn work experience into a chore. We are in the business of helping young people take the next step in their lives.

I believe that qualifications open doors for students after school or college, but work experience seals the deal. An EBP is the most efficient and effective way to make that experience happen. It links local business communities, schools, teachers and students. And for us, it isn’t enough to be ‘an’ EBP, we strive to be ‘the’ EBP. And that means we want to #inspirefutureleaders across the country, from Liverpool to Lambeth and from Edinburgh to Exeter.

Please contact me and time to discuss the possibilities this can bring.

Author: Matthew Hodgkinson (Co-founder / Director of the Changing Education Group)

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