A Deeper Impact on Education – How Businesses Answered the Call to Action

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

As we know, the field of education has been significantly impacted during the pandemic. Indeed, the OECD reports that by March of 2020, all 46 OECD member states closed some or all of their educational institutions[1]. In the light of this tremendous impact and in order to provide even more support to schools, BITCI put out a call to action and many companies acted by expanding their involvement in education programmes. Amazon Web Services (AWS), after recently linking with St. Paul’s Secondary School in Dublin 12 earlier this year, recently embarked on a second link with Scoil Uí Mhuirí, Co. Louth. These partnerships both enhance the company’s engagement with the local community as they are close to AWS data centres. Eir have partnered with 3 schools – Crescent College Comprehensive in Limerick, St. Vincent’s Secondary School in Cork and Ballinode College in Sligo.

We asked three companies about their business rationale for expanding their involvement with our education programmes, and what they found were the positive impacts of this deeper involvement.

Theresa Connolly, Head of Human Resources, Aperee

Theresa ConnollyTheresa Connolly is Head of Human Resources in Aperee based in Cork. Aperee are a leading provider of long term residential care for the older adult with a progressive and innovative approach to the delivery of care. The company has a World of Work programme partnership with Coláiste Gleann Lí in Kerry and Coláiste Éinde in Galway.

Your business rationale for expanding Schools Business Partnership involvement:

I have been involved with this programme (and similar) with BITCI since 1987 and have introduced it to various companies – Dublin Bus, Dairygold, SFPA, CareChoice and now Aperee.  This is a very worthwhile programme both for the students and for staff.  From a company perspective, it provides staff with an opportunity to give something back to the community and gives the company an opportunity to showcase the career opportunities available.  From a student perspective, as a parent myself it is my view that if even one student benefits from the programme, job done.  Myself and my colleagues have thoroughly enjoyed each and every engagement with the students, the school Principals, the Careers Counsellors, the ETBs and BITCI.  We have yet to have an experience that we regretted.

And positive impacts to your company and team?

From a staff perspective, it provides the team with an opportunity to engage in a new activity and to think about their own roles in the company from a positive perspective.  Often the staff involved have attended the partner school themselves and it gives them a sense of pride to be able to demonstrate to the school how well they have done and what they have achieved in their lives.  In my current industry, there is an added benefit to our residents who welcome the interaction with younger people.  The visit to the nursing homes by the students is a welcome addition to their year.  From a student perspective, it allows the students to engage with older people and to consider careers that they did not know existed or that they had not previously considered.  We also hope that we are giving them new skills through the modules in the programme.

Daragh Fallon, CSR & Communications Manager, Abbott

Daragh Fallon, Abbott

Photographer Johnny Bambury

Daragh Fallon is CSR & Communications Manager at Abbott who create breakthrough products in the healthcare areas including diagnostics, medical devices, nutrition and generic pharmaceuticals. They are partnered with Largy College in Monaghan, Lanesboro Community College in Longford and Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin in Galway through two different divisions within the company.

Your business rationale for expanding Schools Business Partnership involvement:

Each year at Abbott, our dedicated employees across our nine sites in Ireland volunteer their time and expertise to helping students learn and understand more about the exciting career prospects available in the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) and how these careers can help change people’s lives for the better. It’s a passion of ours and given the nature of our business and regional footprint in Ireland, we are uniquely positioned to make an impact.

The World of Work programme is a great example of a structured and impactful programme that allows us to share our experiences and expertise, to help give the students a better understanding of the future world of work. The students get to see first-hand how the subjects and skills they are developing at school are transferred to the business world and showcasing examples from our employees is a great way to do that! The programme also allows us to measure the impact we make so that we can continue to adapt future offerings based on the student and school feedback.

And positive impacts to your company and team?

We’ve only just started this year’s programme and already we can see that the students are excited and engaged to learn more about the world of work. They have an appetite to understand what happens in the day to day running of business and the pathways that can lead them to future careers in industry. Some students tend to undervalue themselves when it comes to thinking about their future, or rule out certain careers because they don’t see them as viable option based on perceptions they have developed at an early age. That is what we hope to change through programmes like World of Work. Inspire the students by helping them see the opportunities that exist. That is the greatest impact that we can have on the students.

Caroline Osborne, HR Shared Services, Iarnród Éireann

Caroline OsborneCaroline Osborne from HR Shared Services in Iarnród Éireann is based in the Dublin offices of the national rail network provider, operating city and commuter rail services. Iarnród Éireann linked with O’Connell Secondary School in Spring 2021 and have recently embarked on a second partnership with Coláiste Cholmcille in Galway, both on the World of Work programmes.

Your business rationale for expanding Schools Business Partnership involvement:

In 2021, Iarnród Éireann undertook an equality and diversity review of the organisation. While the focus was primarily within the company, we wanted to include in our review, the communities that we serve. We became aware of the World of Work initiative that BITCI was involved in at second level education and we believed that by participating in this initiative, Iarnród Éireann could support to a local school in Dublin, its teachers, and their students.

 And positive impacts to your company and team?

The response of our colleagues, to the programme was supportive and energetic, from the beginning.  They enjoyed talking to the students not only about the railway but also their work in the industry and their career journey with Iarnród Éireann.  By participating in the World of Work programme we hope to encourage young people to remain in the education system, to help them to realise their potential and, perhaps consider a career in the transport sector.

The World of Work Initiative formed part of a presentation to our Galway district. They were impressed by the programme and they are now on the World of Work journey with a school in Galway.  It was for us the perfect community initiative to allow our employees to show the students that careers can take many paths, and while they may not start on the path they had in mind, there are opportunities to be found wherever they go.

Article written by Andrea Lazenby Simpson, BITCI

For more information on how to get involved with our programmes, click here.

A September 2021 update The State of Global Education: 18 Months into the Pandemic records that on average (across OECD countries with comparable data), primary schools were closed for 78 days, lower secondary schools for 92 days and upper secondary schools for 101 days between 1 January 2020 and 20 May 2021. The number of days of school closure represents roughly 28% of total instruction days over a typical academic year at pre-primary and more than 56% at upper secondary level on average across OECD countries[2].

[1] Schleicher (2020), The Impact of Covid-19 on Education: Insights from Education at a Glance 2020, OECD Publishing, Paris.

[2] OECD (2021), The State of Global Education: 18 Months into the Pandemic, OECD Publishing, Paris.