Peter Townsend - 2015 Conference Address

NAUMAI, HAERE MAI

E TE MANAHIRI TUARANGI,

HAERE MAI MO TENEI HUI,

MO TENEI KAUPAPA O TE RA,

NO REIRA, TENA KOUTOU, TENA KOUTOU,

TENA KOUTOU KATOA.

 

Welcome, welcome

Visitors from afar

Welcome to this meeting,

To the important discussion of the day,

Therefore greetings, greetings,

Greetings to you all.

 

I’m pleased to be with you, and I want to thank Deborah James and the leadership team at the Independent Schools of New Zealand for inviting me to join you at this conference to expand on the theme of collaboration – even if I’m speaking in the dreaded post lunch speaking slot.

This discussion about collaboration, collaboration between schools, and employers, and workplaces is not only timely and fascinating, it is also hugely important for the thousands of young New Zealanders – and to the nation’s economic and social future.

Frankly, it’s a discussion that needs to take place in virtually every department, in every school, in every community, and in every city and region. I commend Independent Schools of New Zealand for getting the dialogue started here at this conference.

It’s not hard to get the people attending this conference thinking about collaboration. In attending this conference you already understand the importance of collaboration.

The challenge for education leaders, administrators, development offices, careers advisors, teachers, and those in charge of external or community relationships lies back at home – keeping the ideal of collaboration on colleagues’, communities’, and students’ minds every day.

From our vantage point, as the South Island’s largest business organisation, let me share with you some of our perspectives about creating and sustaining relationships between business and education organisations.

I also hope to provoke further discussion not only over afternoon tea but also back in your own schools by asking some questions to inform the debate.

But before doing this I want to take a minute or two to set out what CECC does, who we are, and where we work.

I will then touch on the requirements of work, talk about the importance of the front end of the NZ Curriculum and capabilities needed for employability, and try to illustrate to you through the use of examples what I mean by capabilities, before going on to address the what, why and how of collaboration.

For those of you who haven’t come across CECC, we are the South Island’s largest business advocacy organisation. We are also founding members of BusinessNZ.

 

The CECC exists for three key reasons:

 

  1. To build and support business capability
  2. To create an environment conducive to business success, and
  3. Knowing business success.

Education has always been a matter of significance for business.

How schools link to the world of work is a question of enduring interest for business, and increasingly for policy makers.

Work requirements have changed greatly over the last generation and the demands on our workforce are greater than ever. 

Innovation and differentiation are now essential for international competitiveness. 

Quality control is now embedded in all operations.

Employees must have strong literacy, language and numeracy skills and increasingly need skills of communication, co-operation, computation, computer mastery, creativity and critical thinking. 

They need to be able to think across traditional disciplines, make connections and solve problems.

Division of labour is now increasingly in teams, rather than in a hierarchy of command.

The old model of educated managers supervising a less educated workforce is gone.  What’s needed is an education system and learning that caters to this newer world of work.

Employers agree with the Government that we must maximise the potential of all New Zealanders, by ensuring they achieve the skills, knowledge and capabilities needed to succeed – to be useful in positions of real influence and value, in areas of life they are passionate about.

This is about many more of our school students having the knowledge and skills and the capabilities necessary to gain employment, progress their learning, realise their potential and contribute to business, economy, families and the community.  

It’s about realising individual potential.

As many of you will know, but I think it’s worth mentioning, the purpose of NCEA L2 is to provide the foundational level skills necessary if students are to be able to access and succeed in further tertiary learning and in employment.

I want to emphasise the “And employment.”

To quote Jim Collins, the leading business thinker and author of ‘Good to Great’:

 

“For in the end, it is difficult to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life.

 

And it is difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.”

 

That has connotations of life balance, not work / life balance.

So what do employers seek from schooling? We want young New Zealanders to be able to relate well to others, to be motivated and reliable, resilient, enterprising, literate and numerate, informed decision makers, and critical and creative thinkers.

These attributes and capabilities are particularly important when you consider the dynamic futures that await young people.

When young people complete school, they will be entering a world of continual change and where they will encounter a huge range of options.

Young people are less likely to secure a job for life than they are to find – or create - their own jobs repeatedly throughout life.  As a father of four boys I can vouch for that.

Without adequate preparation, this degree of change and choice may be bewildering for tomorrow’s school leavers.

So by the time they reach the final years of secondary school, young people should be in a position to make good, well-informed choices about their futures.

This is not just about allowing young people to make the immediate choices that confront them at the end of school, but also about ensuring young people are equipped to consider their career pathways throughout life.

Put another way, it’s about preparing young people for employability rather than just employment.

It’s about preparing young people for citizenship, where they care about learning and to see the ways they can be proactive in contributing to a better society and economy for everyone.

Capability AND knowledge, skills and competence matter – for further learning, active citizenship, and in the workplace.

To be successful young people of course need foundation and generic levels of knowledge, skills and competence.

Foundation levels of knowledge, skills and competence are necessary but not sufficient to be a performer.

Capability – personal, interpersonal, and cognitive - is more about the responsiveness, creativity, and contingent thinking in relatively uncertain circumstances.

That is knowing when and when not to draw on knowledge and skills, and having the confidence to use and develop knowledge and skills, when faced with problems, opportunities, or complex and changing circumstances.

Examples of personal capabilities employers value include things like:

  • Willingness to learn from errors
  • Calmness under pressure
  • Perseverance
  • Responsibility
  • Wanting to do a good job
  • Being ethical and honest
  • Deferring judgement rather than jumping in
  • Having a sense of humour and perspective.

 

Examples of interpersonal capabilities includes:

  • Empathy and ability to work with diversity
  • Listening
  • Networking well
  • Being a team player
  • Communicating effectively
  • Understanding organisations
  • Not being intimidated.

 

Examples of cognitive capabilities include things like:

  • Ability to set priorities
  • Seeing the key point
  • Diagnosing and seeing the likely consequences of alternate courses of action
  • Adjusting plans in response to problems
  • Being an independent thinker
  • Being creative and enterprising.

 

These capabilities need to be supported by generic skills and knowledge such as:

  • Being able to organise and manage workload
  • Effectively using ICT
  • Effectively self-managing learning
  • Being empowered.

Many of these capabilities are no doubt also reflected in your own school values.

There is alignment between the front end of the NZ Curriculum, the capabilities employers seek and the capabilities that underpin resilience and learning across a life time.

However, and here’s the problem, from an employer’s point of view, the competencies, values and principles that underpin the New Zealand Curriculum don’t always seem to feature very highly in learning.  Too many young people leaving school have yet to acquire the skills, attributes, capabilities, and dispositions that comprise employability and citizenship.

This is evidenced by surveys of employers that show that the education system is not keeping pace with the changing needs of the economy, and employers are increasingly struggling to find skilled workers who can contribute to their companies’ growth and success.

For example, a recent PWC survey revealed that CEOs are more concerned about the impact of a skills shortage on their business than at any point in the last six years.

84% of NZ based CEOs reported that the availability of skills is a threat to their organisation’s growth prospects (up from 80% in 2014).

The availability of skills was reported by CEOs globally as the second biggest concern for business leaders.

A company can’t expand existing production, make the most of new opportunities, or even maintain current output without a supply of skilled workers to draw upon – workers with the right knowledge, skills, competencies and capabilities who are able to apply these in real world situations.

More must be done.

It’s not enough for early childhood leavers to go to school. They must be ready to excel there.

It is not enough for primary school leavers to go to secondary school. They must know they are ready to excel there.

It’s not enough for secondary school age students to go to tertiary or employment. They must know they are ready to excel there.

Through effective collaboration between businesses and schools, we believe there is a wealth of opportunity to support student learning and the development of knowledge, competencies and capabilities useful both in work and life and to support business and local economic growth.

Getting to this point requires reorientation of how we think about the pathways travelled by our children and students and the learning outcomes they achieve, not just in terms of subjects or knowledge areas completed, or in terms of credits gained, but also in respect to their competencies and capabilities.

This demands greater recognition that not all learning occurs in a classroom.

Capabilities that make up employability skills can be acquired in a variety of conexts.

Some of the capabilities I referred to earlier may be best learnt and enhanced through experience in the labour market, while some knowledge and skills may be best developed in partnership with another school, tertiary provider and/or business.

Think about how collaboration in areas like maths, science, or reading could highlight to learners the relevance of these areas in life and work? How might we collaborate to connect today’s curriculum with the real world?

Some learners may require a level of learning provision beyond what any one school or education provider can deliver, particularly when it comes to vocational and technical options for the 70% of school leavers that don’t go on to university.

This means schools must integrate their pathways, programmes and delivery with other schools or providers as part of a collaborative network.

I’m encouraged to learn that schools are looking at ways to better collaborate with a range of tertiary organisations to provide a diversity of learning options and pathways for both domestic and international students.

How do you relate to other educators outside your school?

My challenge to you is to collaborate to create competitive edge when it comes to improved learning outcomes for your students.

I recognise the tension between collaboration and competition is an elephant in the room and I want to share with you an example of collaboration from the private sector.

Collaborate Canterbury is a good example. Local companies unlocking economic opportunities being supported by companies outside of Christchurch to build scale.

Collaboration and your leadership can bring about real change, not just at your schools, but across the country. Collaboration between businesses and schools, within schools, across school and tertiary organisations can enable you to educate in new ways and places.

Now I want to set out the why collaborate, with business in particular.

In our view, collaboration with business produces benefits at every stage of the education process – from defining outcomes, to the design and delivery of relevant programmes, and especially in the development and implementation of vocational programmes and pathways.

But the simplest case is this – neither educators nor businesses can accomplish their goals alone.

And from an employer perspective, establishing these collaborations and ensuring their success is far from simple.

There is a diverse range of business-school collaborations, from sponsorship, to supporting student learning and professional development, through to contributing to learning design and delivery, and contributing to the curriculum through to providing expertise on particular issues.

But I rather think that the current relationships between businesses and schools are more about the school than about student learning.

I think this should change. The people inside our businesses are a great resource and together with the people inside schools they can strengthen student learning for the longer run.

The good news is that this is changing, and that new relationships between the people inside business and education organisations are developing to support student learning.

In my view, a big obstacle to stronger business-school collaborations and partnerships is uncertainty about the most effective and impactful ways for business and schools to work together.

Businesses can partner with schools to emphasize to students, often through school Career Days, the importance of education, especially literacy and numeracy and the key capabilities.

Other businesses run industry open days where they seek to work alongside key teachers to provide meaningful examples of critical thinking, communication, collaboration, problem solving and leadership as they see these skills being critical to all students if they are to be successful in the global market place.

Programmes like Gateway enable authentic “school to work” transitions, through a contextualised and co-taught curriculum and directly involve companies.

There are countless other options. For example, advisory boards are a vehicle to enhance the business voice and involvement in your work, providing you with access to the talents and resources of leaders in your community.

Business and industry groups also represent a tremendous pool of expertise in areas that may be of great interest to your programmes. A good example from my city is Hagley Community College’s ‘School of Apps’ and its links to the ICT industry.

In addition, many businesses may have the skills in management or other areas that you can leverage, and are happy to share their knowledge, experiences and resources if asked.

Learning can also be enhanced through exposure to the world of work – this can be via the exposure students get through guest speakers, online videos and content, workplace visits, work experience, internships and cadetships, and by introducing industry-based challenges, problems, and competitions for students to respond to.

But under what conditions do these approaches make sense? Should I do one thing or multiple things? What impact do these approaches have? How will I know I am making a difference? What are the best ways to involve employers?

Students are not the only ones who can benefit from exposure to the workforce and industry. School–business collaborations present teachers with a similarly positive opportunity to better connect learning with realities of the workplace.

Now I am going to touch on some underlying principles for business-school collaboration.

Experience suggests the following key principles to increase and broaden business and school collaboration.

 

  1. The purpose of school-business collaboration should be to contribute to enhanced learning outcomes for students.
  2. All schools and businesses should have the opportunity to form relationships that can contribute to enhancing learning outcomes.
  3. There are many forms and levels of school–business relationships that are valid and valuable (ie not one size fits all).
  4. All schools have students that will benefit from well-designed and delivered school-business relationships.
  5. Most business-school relationships can create wins for the school, wins for the business, wins for the students, and wins for the community.

 

How to engage employers in education? When thinking about engaging business it’s useful to understand why companies are likely to engage with schools.

Experience suggests that businesses will have one or multiple motivations to engage with education organisations like schools.

For example, a company may see it as an opportunity to:

  • Strengthen employee engagement and develop staff
  • Improve its brand leadership and enhance its corporate reputation
  • Developing the capacity and capabilities of future employees
  • Address operational risks
  • Foster innovation in education
  • Meet Corporate Social Responsibility goals and objectives
  • Improve the region and communities they operate in, and or
  • Create a point a difference in the marketplace.

 

The key point here is that there are many motivations, and that these motivations will be linked to one or more business problems or opportunities.

Businesses and industry associations increasingly want to be able to target, leverage, execute and measure their investments (broadly defined) in education.

So what does this mean for collaborating with business?

It suggests to me at least you would do well to consider the following four points when entering into a relationship with a business:

 

  • Understand the rationale and business case collaboration
  • Plan investment and impact by being clear about the type of impact being sought and for whom
  • Be smart – and by this I mean know when to partner with experts, be outcomes-orientated and results-driven, and be sustainable and scalable, and
  • Focus on outcomes and impact for all parties.

 

Now for some ideas on how you might best go about engaging with employers in the markets you operate in.

 

  • Know your key employers & key industry sectors – are they growing, declining, stable? What industries? What sectors?
  • Cast a wide net - engage at multiple levels inside a business or industry.
  • Learn to speak business (a little) – be problem focussed rather than programme focused. Translate education stuff into plain language.
  • Take into account that employers see themselves first as businesses – that is, making things and or providing services to create a profit or generate revenue – jobs, skills, learning and training sit in this context.
  • Bring value to the table. For example, what courses or programmes of study currently offered are relevant? How can your organisation respond to specific business or industry needs and/or problems?
  • Develop and maintain relationships – keep employers in the loop about developments, student progress and outcomes.
  • Make employer participation user friendly – be clear about your needs – coordinate with other education organisations in your region.
  • Build on business networks – recruit new partners through existing ones. Cultivate some local hero employers to act as champions.
  • Have real commitment from school leadership and ensuring ongoing delegation of responsibility to manage the relationship.

So there you have my business engagement suggestions.

 

Before concluding, I want to re-emphasise that there are many compelling reasons for school-business collaboration.

 

Here are a few:

 

  • Far too many of school leavers, indeed tertiary graduates, lack the skills and capabilities that will make them successful today and tomorrow in an increasingly complex global society.
  • Collaboration has the potential to give you the capacity and flexibility to meet the needs of learners and to focus on their success in what comes NEXT.
  • If students and their families are to make the right choices for the future, it’s important they are aware of the full range of opportunities. I encourage you to think broadly about transitions and the need to expand the range, quality, and visibility of vocational and technical learning pathways available to school students.
  • Collaboration has the potential to assist with maths, science, literacy, and technology learning. A lack of maths, science, and literacy no longer means lost access to some tertiary learning – it can also means to lost access to many careers.
  • Collaboration can also assist in providing teachers and learners with ‘real world’ or ‘real life’ learning experiences which can be built into programme design, delivery, and assessment.
  • Collaboration has the potential to be a key part of learning the front end of the New Zealand Curriculum – the key competencies, principles, and values. I also have argued that collaboration can be used to support learning of the key capabilities that comprise employability.
  • Collaboration can also assist with getting young people and parents thinking early about the young person’s future. And by early, I mean not just in secondary school but also in primary school.

There is the potential for schools and businesses to share their experiences more frequently and to learn from each other.

Schools and businesses should be provided with easy-to-use guidance to encourage good practice in school-business collaboration through the development of principles, approaches and case studies that provide insights, ideas and inspiration, and evaluation frameworks.

You, as school leaders, administrators and change agents, play a pivotal role in preparing young people for employability in a world of continual change and expanding choice.

So let me close with a comment and several questions to provoke discussion and debate. I hope this will be useful in helping you to think through the key issues and opportunities – today - and on Monday.

I want to leave you with the following statement: “The primary purpose of a school, certainly by the end of secondary schooling, is to prepare young people to be successful – to excel -  in life, including in further tertiary learning AND employment.

 

I leave you with the following questions:

 

  • How does your school’s strategic plan make it clear that your purpose is to prepare young people for success in tertiary education AND employment?
  • As a school, what opportunities do you have to contribute to discussion about the future of your local business community, including new businesses arriving in the area?
  • What are the 15 businesses in your community that are the most innovative and growing the fastest?
  • What is your approach to engaging with the businesses in your communities?
  • How do you monitor school graduates – whether they were successfully prepared for the next step, further learning and employment?
  • How often is employer engagement and labour market analysis an item on the agenda of your school’s board?
  • What is the balance of your efforts to engage businesses for sponsorship, money and goods compared with your engagement in curriculum and course design, learning and resource development, career education, and teacher development?
  • How do you ensure that your school staff, whatever their subject, can speak about the local economy and the opportunities it offers for your students?
  • How well do you leverage the linkages your students’ parents have with businesses in your community?
  • How well do you leverage school alumni to create business engagement and linkages to your school?
  • Where would be the first place a business leader would go to have a conversation about engaging with your school?
  • Who within your school is really responsible for nurturing education-business relationships?

 

I hope that these questions will stimulate widespread debate and discussion, help change the nature of the conversations happening both within and between schools and businesses and support transformations in how relationships are built.

I am the first to admit that this sort of work isn’t easy and that you are all busy people.

I do hope, however, that through school business-engagement and collaboration we can help continue this conversation to support real change to create value for your students, your organisations, the business community, and the broader communities that we live and work in.

And we, the wider business community, look forward to hearing about your ideas and collaborating with you to build on the ideas, challenges and opportunities I have set before you this afternoon.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to be with you today.