Skip to main content

Championing equal recognition for every industry - Sandra Wiggins

24 Jul 2023

As both the Director and Co-Founder of DPI UK – as well as a leadership organisational change consultant – I have a passion for fostering behavioural and psychological safety in every workplace. My versatile work history has given me an unwavering hunger for personal growth, and I strive to encourage people to pursue the career that’ll give them the most fulfilment.

While I was already offering work experience visits for young people in non-mainstream schools, I was approached by my Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to give a business talk in the area. This event caught the attention of English Martyrs’ Catholic School’s Careers Leader Jon James, who identified me as someone he could relate to.

Together, we considered what a realistic careers strategy at English Martyrs could look like. Our views on developing soft skills were aligned, agreeing on the importance of emotional intelligence. communication, and self-management. We also both saw an equal demonstration of all post-16 options as crucial – so we began building a strategy to encompass these values. My personal ambition was to support the young people who needed it most, changing attitudes towards sustainable employment paths for those who don’t necessarily thrive within an academic setting.

Advocating for all pathways

With the support of Nacho Galvez and Saahera Mohamed from the Leicestershire LEP, I was introduced to the school and their careers programme was explained to me. I have a deep-rooted belief that every industry deserves equal respect, which underpins my ethos as an Enterprise Adviser. I recognise a disparity in the ways vocational and academic routes are presented to young people today – and I’m always determined to challenge societal perceptions of different industries.

I try not to shy away from challenging conversations, but being met with scepticism from some of the senior leadership team made it clear to me that full stakeholder engagement is crucial towards achieving your goals as an Enterprise Adviser. That’s why I actively seek to introduce Jon to professionals from my own network, targeting skills gaps and showing employers the importance of educational outreach. In this way, expanding the school’s business connections and exposure to all industries has advocated the merits of non-academic pathways.

Adapting to survive

Having conversations on a strategic level like this shows how different industries can benefit from working together. Speaking to professionals from different sectors made it clear that the job market quickly changes, so adaptability is key within every sector – making it essential to equip young people with professional agility and resilience. As such, our careers plan relies on an acute awareness of the current recruitment landscape, aiming to realistically prepare young people for the evolving demands of employment.

I’ve also come to learn that being an Enterprise Adviser itself requires innovative thinking. Planning careers events for young people requires a meticulous consideration of logistics, finances and safeguarding – internal structures that I hadn’t considered before. Here, playing to the strengths of everyone involved made it easier to translate our top line strategy into something more understandable and actionable for those at the school.

Building momentum

One of the things we produced as part of our careers vision was an alumni network of those who have already progressed from the school. We’ve invited students who have gone on to have successful careers – as well as those who have faced challenges since leaving school – to come back and share their authentic stories with the current cohort. Hearing a range of outcomes from relatable individuals highlights the importance of resilience, and the power of having positive attitudes towards change.

Adding more voices to the careers conversation builds momentum every year, and I cherish the opportunity to bring together people from different backgrounds to have impactful conversations. Including teachers from every department in the dialogue has also helped to highlight vocational skills within a learning environment – contextualising the curriculum for the students.

Finding success

When facing resistance or obstacles as an Enterprise Adviser, I like to find a solution in any scenario; even if only one young person is inspired by a talk or an event, that spark should be considered a success. In my opinion, starting small by aiming to improve just one individual’s attitude and confidence can create ripple effects of change.

For me, helping a school and its Careers Leader find its own autonomy with its careers provision is the greatest success of my time as an Enterprise Adviser – through resilience and teamwork, a wide-scale awareness of careers prospects is now fully embedded at English Martyrs. My role has since become more akin to a networker and consultant, and I’m now looking to formalise a flexible working document for future strategic reference at the school.

It’s also been a true pleasure to see Careers Leader Jon flourish in his role. He takes ownership and accountability for his work and is comfortable building his trusted network to engage stakeholders. I now consider him a friend, and together we’re creating a legacy that will keep growing and adapting to the changing world of work.

What’s next

Being an Enterprise Adviser has encouraged me to readdress my own professional values, helping me to realise that my true fulfilment lies in mentoring and delivering impact as a critical friend. I’ve pushed myself, adapted to a new industry, and now have the hunger for the next project. I try to embody the same values that I ardently advocate for as an Enterprise Adviser.

Become an Enterprise Adviser today

Working with a local school or college, your role as an Enterprise Adviser can help support pathways into your industry and shape young people's futures.

You can help bridge the gap between the world of work and education, working with the Careers Leader and wider senior leaders of the school or college to create opportunities for young people.

Find out more