Nearly two-thirds of businesses in the UK (63%) have links to a further education college, according to a study published this summer.

The 10th annual Education and Skills Survey 2017, published by the CBI and education services company Pearson in July, shines a light on the state of engagement that UK businesses have with FE colleges and schools.

As expected, engagement with FE providers is greater in larger businesses with higher numbers of staff. Among businesses with 5,000 employees and above, an impressive 95% reported having links with colleges and/or schools.

However, even among SMEs with under 250 employees, more than half (55%) reported having links with at least one school or college – and more than two-thirds of these said the links were with FE colleges (68%). These are encouraging levels of engagement.

The expansion of business/FE partnership working is also encouraging: 45% of businesses with links to FE colleges report that they increased the level of their engagement over the past year.

The main activities in which businesses engage with FE colleges are not surprising: providing careers talks and advice (67%) and offering work experience placements (59%).

Crucially, nearly half of businesses (44%) report having members of staff acting as governors. The report recognises that governance is an area where business involvement can have a real impact. It says: “Building a world-class education system depends on excellence in its leaders, backed and challenged by confident, supportive and capable governing bodies that act as a bridge to businesses and the wider community.”

The aim now is to increase the number of business leaders taking on roles as board members in FE. We believe this is done both by raising awareness of the crucial role the FE plays in ensuring our young people are work ready, with the skills that businesses need; and promoting board membership as a challenging, rewarding activity, which ultimately has a positive impact on both the region’s economy and young people themselves.

This is the challenge that Inspiring FE Governance is taking up.

Read the full report from the CBI.