Meet Business Champion Colin Muncie

A former director in the steel industry, both in the UK and the US, Colin Muncie is now retired and engaged in range of voluntary work. In 2018, he started as a Business Champion and industry partner for the Cutlers’ Better Learners Better Workers programme, working with both King Edward VII School and Stocksbridge High School in Sheffield.

How did you get involved in Better Learners Better Workers?

I’ve been a governor at King Edward VII School, Sheffield, for six or seven years and latterly we’ve been working with the students to give them more opportunities for work experience and careers interviews. We realised we needed to look externally for potential partners to help us – maybe one or two big employers. I talked to a former colleague who put me in touch with the Cutlers’ Company who told me about the Better Learners Better Workers programme, which is focused on exactly this world-of-work experience for school-age students.

Why did you choose the Better Learners Better Workers Programme?

The thing that struck me about the programme was the range of opportunities it gives the students – developing life skills, having a business mentor, going on work experience and getting to see the world of work. It brings in the disciplines of working life such as getting up in the morning, making sure you complete your assignments, and learning how to do presentations. It’s a terrific chance that I’d have loved to have when I was younger.

What sort of benefits are becoming apparent?

I work with the engineering sector programme. Already this year, the students have had a wide variety of employer encounters with companies like AESSEAL and Tinsley Bridge. For the teachers, they get industry exposure which helps them to set the scene for what the students do. For the students, they learn work skills, and also you can see them growing in confidence.

Some of the students have expressed an interest in staying in engineering for their careers. They’re not definitely going to but they are certainly more interested in it than they might otherwise have been. I’ve been told there is a fair correlation between a student doing a project at a company whilst on the programme and ending up with an interim or even a final position there, which is tremendous.

Why do you think the BLBW engineering sector programme is important?

I worked in the steel industry in Stocksbridge for many years and I have a great attachment to the place. That’s why I wanted to work with Stocksbridge School as well as King Edward’s. The steel that’s made in Stocksbridge is world class – there’ll be something from Stocksbridge in a Formula 1 car and there’s a fair bet that when your plane lands it’s landing on gear containing a bit of Stocksbridge steel. These new high-tech steel works need engineers. As we move forward, we know that artificial intelligence (AI) is going to play a big part but who’s going to design, update and upskill the automated facilities that we’re going to have? We need new talent entering the sector and that’s where the Better Learners Better Workers programme comes in.

You’re a Business Champion at Stocksbridge School – what does that entail?

I try to get involved and offer some mentoring support. When it comes to the students’ project work, I help them with the design of their product, how to run the team, things like that. If the young people get together to work on their project, I might go in for an hour to see how they’re getting on and whether there are any issues they need help with. For example, one student recently wanted some assistance on how to lead a team. Some of the students are better at doing than organising, so it’s about making sure their records are right, asking them how they arrived at decisions, who was responsible for what, how do we know that things are running to time.

How do you feel about being a Business Champion?

Well I was lucky enough in my career. Now I want to put something back and I have a great concern about young people. I don’t mind putting the time in so long as it’s valued. It’s not about me, it’s about the students, and if I can help to get these students through the programme so they achieve their Better Learners Better Workers Skills Passports at the end and get into their chosen career, then it’s worth it.

What would you say to schools that don’t do the Better Learners Better Workers programme?

There are other vehicles for developing workplace skills but this is the one I’ve been most impressed by – not least the energy and vision of the people involved with the programme. I’d say have a go, because the outcomes are fantastic. Despite the funding pressures at the moment, it’s important for schools to keep looking outward. I’d heartily recommend that every school think about BLBW.

Better Learners Better Workers