James Tear, Managing Director at Solpro Group

James Tear, Managing Director of The Solpro Group, is the Better Learners Better Workers Business Champion working with Stocksbridge High School.

A veteran of the Better Learners Better Workers Programme, James has been involved from the outset in the Engineering strand. This was the first sector programme to be developed as a joint initiative by Sheffield City Council and the prestigious Cutlers’ Company, of which James is a longstanding member. The Cutlers’ Company, founded in 1624, has safeguarded Sheffield’s world-renowned reputation for metal craft over the centuries and now represents top engineering and manufacturing employers in Sheffield City Region.  Availability of skilled and work-ready new recruits to the industry is one of the top issues flagged up by members on a regular basis.  It was this issue that prompted the development of the Better Learners Better Workers programme.

James is an enthusiastic champion of the programme: “We need more employers to be involved in education, helping young people to make informed choices.  The Better Learners Better Workers programme connects employers to schools and vice versa.

“It’s been an eye-opener for me in terms of understanding what teachers do and the challenges that schools face.  It’s also helped me realise what opportunities we can offer as a business. Before Better Learners Better Workers we never offered work experience. Now, we offer work experience not just to the Ambassadors but to other young people as well.  The response from our staff to having school students come in has been very interesting.  The students ask thought-provoking questions, which help staff to see what they’re doing in a new light.  Staff also feel valued when they are entrusted to look after the students. It’s been a good experience for us as a business.”

James had very little experience of working with the public sector before his involvement with Better Learners Better Workers and found the first time in the classroom quite challenging. As he confesses, he was pleasantly surprised to see how enthusiastic and talented the students were: “Young people are often portrayed badly in the press.  It was a breath of fresh air to see how impressive the students were in practice, especially the Ambassadors. It is great to know that we have got students out there in Sheffield who are work-ready and capable of becoming the next generation of engineers and business leaders.”

James is now a regular visitor to Stocksbridge High School, helping to select and mentor the Ambassadors: “Personally, I have found participating in Better Learners Better Workers very rewarding.  So much so, that I have now accepted the invitation to become a Governor at the school.

“The Better Learners Better Workers programme is a great opportunity for young people and it needs to be developed. It’s about giving young people a rounded education.”

Better Learners Better Workers