Speakers for Schools Shares 3 Steps to Boost your Early Talent Pipeline

Posted in : Supplementary Articles NI on 6 February 2024
Speakers for Schools
Speakers for Schools
Issues covered: Work Experience Placements

Back in 2021, The Open University’s annual Business Barometer report revealed 69% of Northern Ireland businesses believed there was a skills shortage in their organisation. In the same year, the Economy Minster outlined her 10x strategy for the Northern Ireland economy, stressing the need for businesses to be bold and ambitious to make a generational change in the space of a decade to find new and innovative ways to overcome challenges linked to skill shortages.

Three years on, as the combined long-term effects of Brexit and the pandemic continue to impact businesses in the region, there is mounting pressure on employers of all sizes to redouble their efforts to adapt to a rapidly changing labour market and help close skills gaps. But without actionable guidance on how best to achieve this – especially for Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) who often have limited resources available to invest – many businesses are struggling to make significant headway.

So, what are three simple, impactful steps that you as an HR professional can take to get started – both to locate the best early talent and develop skills in your future workforce?

The first step is to perform a skills audit.

This means working with departments across your organisation to identify the skills that your future workforce will require and highlight the key areas where there are skills gaps that need to be addressed – this should include essential skills like listening, speaking, problem-solving, creativity, staying positive, aiming high, and teamwork (for more information, please refer to the Skills Builder Universal Framework).

Next, evaluate your current early talent outreach.

This will need to cover several areas and the following prompts should help to guide you:

  • What sort of interventions do you offer?
  • Do they start early enough in the education cycle?
  • Do they provide opportunities for young people to acquire skills as well as find out about employment and training opportunities with your organisation?
  • Do they prioritise accessibility and inclusivity?
  • Do they meet your CSR and/or DEI objectives adequately?
  • Are they generating interest and applications from appropriately skilled candidates for early careers?

Chances are there will be some potential areas for improvement, and this is where you need to be open to new and innovative ways to strengthen your early talent pipeline and facilitate smoother education-to-employment transitions for a more diverse group of young people.

It stands to reason that young people will be better placed to make informed decisions about subject choices, post-16 pathways, and careers if they have the chance to develop a clear understanding of the local labour market and the range of opportunities available to them.

It also makes sense that live employer-led interventions where young people can gain valuable insights while also developing their confidence and skill-set in the context of the workplace will be more impactful than those with limited interaction, or where the types of activities offered mean that the level of engagement is minimal.

The final step is to take positive action to make your interventions better and strengthen your early talent pipeline.

So how can you optimise your interventions for impact – even if your organisation is small and has limited resources?

The simplest way is to offer high-quality, real-time work experience placements which encompass opportunities to learn more about your organisation and take part in engaging skill-building activities.  

Evidence suggests that every organisation can benefit from offering work experience – especially if they choose an established partner like social mobility charity “Speakers for School” that offers highly flexible and accessible options for in-person, virtual, and hybrid placements for employers of all sizes.


Our placements meet EANI guidance for work-related learning and the charity has already successfully partnered with many leading Northern Ireland employers including Kainos, Graham Construction, Wrightbus, and A&L Goodbody as well as over 1,000 employers from the rest of the UK.


Reflecting on the success of the ongoing partnership between Kainos and Speakers for Schools, Kainos’ Senior Outreach and Engagement Manager Gemma Breslin said:

“Offering virtual opportunities alongside in-person placements in the last year means that Kainos and Speakers for Schools have been able to reach more schools and more students than before.”

5 ways Speakers for Schools can help you attract talent and close skills gaps

  • We work with 172 grant-aided post-primary schools and FE colleges in Northern Ireland and over 2,000 state schools and colleges in the rest of the UK.This means we are well-placed to help you organise and host highly cost-effective placements to promote employment and training opportunities to a wider demographic of 14-19-year-olds either on your doorstep in Northern Ireland or right across our UK network.
  • Our online portal reduces the administrative burden of hosting work experience for large or small cohorts of young people regularly, which means whatever the size of your organisation, you can have a big impact.
  • Our experienced Northern Ireland team can also advise you on how to use these placements to ensure that attendees actively develop and embed the sort of essential skills you are looking for.
  • We have commissioned independent research that tells us exactly what good quality work experience looks like based on an analysis of evidence from across the world. This means our latest work experience offering is designed to be our most impactful yet and you can be sure that you’ll be in good hands hosting work experience with us.
  • And finally, as a social mobility charity we are entirely focused on social impact. By partnering with us, you can easily target your opportunities at those who are typically the hardest to reach which can help you meet your CSR or DEI goals as well as meet the social value clauses in public contracts.

Ready to give it a try?

For more information, please email: karen.hillis@speakersforschools.org


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This article is correct at 06/02/2024

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Speakers for Schools
Speakers for Schools

The main content of this article was provided by Speakers for Schools. Email karen.hillis@speakersforschools.org

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