Businesses should consider withholding promotion from managers who fail to get involved with a local school, a senior ex-banker with the task of forging closer links between employers and schools has suggested.
The comments by Bob Wigley, former chairman of Merrill Lynch Europe and co-chair of the new government-funded Education and Employers Taskforce, show how corporate social responsibility (CSR) is increasingly seen as a core management attribute pushing ambitious executives up the greasy pole.
Mr Wigley, who is also chairman of Yell, the directories business, justified attempts to link executives’ careers to how much work they do in England’s education sector, saying: “Particularly in senior management, you’re looking for someone who can understand the relationship between the business and its wider stakeholder group.”
He made the specific suggestion about linking career progression to educational involvement in an interview on the eve of the charity’s official launch today. Mr Wigley made clear that he would ask challenging questions of corporate leaders who have agreed to become involved with the taskforce. For example: “Would you build it into your management development programme that you can’t reach the next level of management promotion unless you have participated in building an educational-business partnership with a local school?”
Big names among the taskforce’s trustees include Stephen Green, chairman of HSBC, David Cruickshank, Deloitte chairman, and Sir John Rose, chief executive of Rolls-Royce.
The concept of CSR has become progressively more powerful in business in recent years. Opponents argue that it distracts companies from their core functions of adding to national output and competing to provide ever better products and services.
But Mr Wigley said shareholders had become interested. “Most big institutional investors now have corporate governance officers and one of the things they look at before they invest is: how well developed is the CSR regime? Is it appropriate for the size of the company?”
He also argued that businesses could help school children by making them “alert to the world of work”. The charity will try to get employers to supply expertise to schools in three areas: “employability”, including careers advice, “school leadership”, such as providing governors, and “enterprise education”, teaching children what businesses do.
Businesses are much more closely involved in schools than 10 years ago – most controversially through their sponsorship of academies, which allows them to appoint a majority of the school’s governors.
Mr Wigley suggested that persuading teachers to become bedfellows with businesses “probably is the harder job” than chivvying businesses to become more involved in education. “I don’t know whether it’s 60 per cent or 40 per cent, but there are a lot of teachers who don’t really see the value of business.”
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