To ensure they met Benchmark 5 many schools and colleges in the pilot had to bolster their existing relationships with employers. Many started from the point of already having a regular careers fair or talks with employers, so their challenges revolved around ensuring high quality and comprehensive pupil engagement. They began by enhancing their existing events to reach students in all year groups. They also looked at ways to personalise employer interactions so that students found these discussions relevant for their future and not just generic careers advice. The schools who really embraced the Benchmark created innovative opportunities for students to meet local employers.One school organised for employers to judge an “Apprentice-style” event in which students had to pitch their business ideas. This scheme had an amazing impact on some students. One parent of a Y10 girl from a pilot school, said “My daughter won this [Dragons' Den] for nail art. She borrowed money from school to set up and pays it back by charging at school fun days. She has paid all of this back, is still doing this and making money. She wants to do this as a job.”
Those looking to enhance an existing careers fair started by tackling the major problem of attendance from both employers and students. Schools contacted employers by mining alumni, parents and contacts from teachers across the school. They also worked with organisations such as The Careers and Enterprise company to help locate employers through their Enterprise Advisor scheme. Some schools wanted to put on sector specific events. To make this worthwhile they teamed up with other local schools ensuring a good turnout of pupils and employers. Looking for who you can collaborate with is key to enhancing a career fair.
The most successful careers fairs also got smart about ensuring parent attendance. The King Edward VI School engaged parents right from the very beginning, opening up the careers fair to them as well as to students. The school sent text messages and Tweets to parents reminding them of the event right up until the day. They also updated them when new employers were added, so they felt involved in the event all the way along.