Philanthropy with a feel-good factor

Encee Systems, a firm in the Rhondda Valley, South Wales, is a supplier of information technology systems. It's a small company that employs 28 people, and it admits that it has a vested interest in forging links with education - because many of its customers are schools. But its relationships with schools go much further than traditional business-client relationships.

At Tonyrefail school, an 11-18 comprehensive in nearby Porth, the firm is involved with every year group. Staff come in and give talks, there are industrial visits and projects designed to deepen youngsters' understanding of business as well as work experience placements for Year 10.

Year 9 students have been doing a technology project to develop their own packaging for videos, helped by an employee from the company.

The school and business are part of a project called World of Work, run by Mid Glamorgan Education Business Partnership and Rhondda Cynon Taff local education authority, which is linking 19 secondary schools in the borough with employers. The initiative runs programmes for all year groups. These involve employers visiting schools and student tours of businesses and special projects. Years 10 and 11 gain experience in teamwork, communication and presentation skills, setting up a business and mock interviews.

"It really gives them a good insight into what's going on in the world of work," says Lynnette Collins, the school's head of careers and guidance.

"We're a Valleys school and, to be honest, the children don't want to go very far from home. When we tell them they have work experience in Cardiff, it can be quite daunting for them.

"Having this involvement with industry is making them realise what's out there - it's not just the immediate environment."

Encee Systems acknowledges it has a vested interest in fostering links with education, but believes it is to schools' advantage as well as the company's.

"It's good marketing for us in the sense that we are getting ourselves well known in the local community," says Liz Price, the company's business development and marketing manager.

"For every group of 20 children we get in here, they go home and probably tell their parents about it, or the school may issue a press release about it. But it's all about interaction with the community, increasing our profile with people we don't normally do business with. There's a little bit of philanthropy, wanting to put something back into the community, and there's the feel-good factor of the staff involved."

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you