Connecting SMEs and young people through education providers

Finding and implementing solutions to enable quality and impactful engagement

Publication date

March 2023



Full report


What's covered

This document is about a research project on how to increase young people's access to engineering companies from EngineeringUK and the ERA Foundation in collaboration with the Careers and Enterprise Company. It studies how SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) connect with young people through education providers. It discusses solutions for quality and impactful engagement to increase young people’s access to engineering companies.



Who this is for

  • Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the engineering, manufacturing and technology sectors
  • Schools – teachers and careers leads
  • STEM outreach organisations
  • Researchers
  • Policymakers


Key findings

The report identifies barriers to engagement between SMEs and education settings including:

  • Lack of time and resources for planning and delivering engagement activities
  • Limited knowledge of how to engage effectively and efficiently with schools
  • Lack of understanding about the engagement opportunities available
  • No strategic plan to underpin engagements, leading to ad hoc and infrequent engagement, with a narrow range of activities
  • Concerns about the Health & Safety and legal requirements of engaging with young people
  • Need for support to facilitate connections to local schools
  • Access to resources, advice and best practice guides via a sector-specific umbrella organisation.


A range of existing initiatives to support SMEs’ engagement with education were identified. Professional Engineering Institutions and other membership bodies (for example, Make UK, Federation of Small Businesses) signpost their members (many of which are SMEs) to existing programmes such as the Tomorrow’s Engineers Code, STEM Learning’s STEM Ambassador network and The Careers & Enterprise Company’s Careers Hubs.


Related content

Our careers, our future: STEM careers provision and young people

STEM clubs and their ability to increase students’ aspirations for engineering and technology careers

Science Education Tracker

Apprenticeships inquiry report


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