AN enterprising duo from South Tyneside is helping the region’s schools bridge the gap between education and the workplace.
Gaye Young and Alison Pressling have launched Inspire Smart Education Ltd after working as colleagues at the South Tyneside Education Business Partnership and, latterly, Blue Venture, part of the Newcastle Education Business Partnership.
Faced with redundancy following a number of funding cutbacks, they saw a business opportunity to bring the world of work into local schools and went about developing their new venture.
Ms Young said: “The main objective of Inspire Smart Education is to bring industry into the classroom in a way that offers pupils and teachers the chance to bridge the gap between the commercial world and education in a meaningful way.
“Working with our extensive industry partners, we offer schools at primary and secondary level the opportunity to inspire students using a range of bespoke initiatives which support the curriculum and the needs of individual students.”
The business organises events such as the Career Carousel, where groups of employers attend schools to engage with pupils on all areas of the working world, including career choices and qualifications, as well as pathways into employment. It also runs a series of employability skills programmes to raise aspirations that go beyond required qualifications and instead look to connect with students on developing real-life skills required by an employer, such as problem-solving and interviewing ability.
Ms Young added: “One of our more popular initiatives has been regular industry day trips, taking groups of students into different working environments to experience first-hand the workplace of a range of businesses, such as Nissan or BT – both major employers in the local area.”
The pair launched the firm after consulting with business adviser Judith Wheatley from enterprise agency TEDCO. Ms Wheatley said: “Inspire Smart Education is a business which offers real value to schools, students and employers and both Gaye and Alison were clear from the outset on what they wanted the business to achieve. After connecting the team with a business mentor and helping to develop a robust business plan, Inspire Smart Education is already off to a great start.” Ms Pressling said: “The advice and support of Judith at TEDCO has been invaluable. She is a mine of contacts and information on all areas related to new business support.
“With new schools now coming on board from other areas of the region, we expect to continue to keep in close contact with Judith for her guidance as the business continues to expand.”