Julia Gurr is an Employability Adviser working on the Skills West project. She works with businesses and training providers across the West of England to help give young people a taste of work life. We caught up with Julia to find out more about her day job, how she can help companies and training providers and what she likes to get up to outside of the office.
Tell us a bit about yourself; your role as Employability Adviser for Skills West and your career background?
Once upon a time I studied fashion and textiles at UWE, then went on to run a fashion business for 5 years. After that I joined Business West and worked as an Information Adviser/researcher and Business Adviser. I’ve done teaching, strategic business consultancy and being a full-time mum which was the toughest and most rewarding role of my career to date! Everything I’ve done has led me to what I’m doing now… Employability Adviser.
My turn to ask a question - what was careers advice like for you? Did you know what you wanted to do when you left school? Provision hasn’t changed that much. I believe it’s under-funded and under resourced. Schools and colleges in particular work incredibly hard, but careers support gets lost amongst all the other agendas they have to prioritise.
Skills West is all about forging stronger links between employers and schools, colleges, universities, training providers and employability support agencies in the region. One of the ways we do that is asking companies to pledge some time and offer careers talks, mock interviews, work placements, live projects and other activities so young people and job seekers can get that vital engagement with the world of work.
The Skills team and other Business West staff collect our pledges and it’s my job to match them up by introducing companies to the right people in education and training who want to use them. It’s a great conversation starter with companies – lots of companies want to pledge because they know there are some great benefits and savings to be had…!
What is a typical day and / or week for you?
Attending business and careers events, meeting employers and getting those conversations happening so more activities can get underway. We meet regularly as a team so we can keep connected with what’s happening across our priority sectors and we also run quite a few events ourselves – disseminating results of our skills surveys and encouraging companies to work together on the skills challenges in the region.
What type of businesses do you work with?
Everyone and anyone who is happy to offer some of their time to support work based learning to our pledge seekers. From micros and freelancers to multi-nationals – everyone has something valuable to offer.
You mentioned pledging - what sort of thing can businesses promise?
Any of these activities below and we keep them ‘flexible’ so our pledgers can be specific about what they can offer.
•Workplace visits/open doors
•Industry project briefs
•Networking (student & bus. events)
•Contribution to curriculum
•Sponsorship (education & skills events)
Why do you think it’s important for businesses to get involved?
Shaping 21st century education is the linchpin to success for this region and the country as a whole. If employers can get all the right skills they need on their doorstep – imagine how much simpler (and cheaper) recruitment would be? Employers have plenty to say about what’s not working – their active involvement is the key to unlocking our skills potential.
We’re focusing on work placements right now – it’s so important that college students get this ‘work ready’ preparation as part of their courses – and with the advent of T levels (vocational A levels coming in 2020) we’ll need many more companies coming forward and offering this. We’ll need some creative solutions to make this happen!
What would be your top tip to any businesses struggling with skills shortages?
Call the Skills West team – maybe it’s time to try some new ideas – and get linked up with other employers struggling with the same problems to work on creative solutions.
What do you love most about your job?
I work with a really friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable team on a project that is really vital to the success of the region. It’s satisfying work – virtually all the employers I talk to want to get involved and support young people and job seekers… and our educators are really grateful when we can help them find employers willing to support their activities. I’d really love to see this service carried on – to make a REAL difference we need to do so much more than we’ve achieved so far on the project... such great potential!
I can’t miss out Leigh Court – I’m a real country girl so this is a dream work location for me!
What do you like to get up to outside the office? OR What would be your perfect Sunday?
I started Aikido the same year I started work at Business West in 1999 – I still train and help teach the kids class including my own boys. I still design and make clothes too when I can. It’s all go… I have no idea how I fit it all in!
Meet the Skills West Team