Skills Builder LogoTap to open menu
Explore Framework
News & Blog

View our Privacy Notice.

Supporting a collective impact approach to essential skills: A spotlight on Allen and Overy
September 1, 2021

At Skills Builder, we take a collective approach to achieving impact – working in partnership with over 800 organisations to create a world where everyone can build the essential skills to succeed. This series will shine a spotlight on some of our Collective Impact Partners - organisations that are championing the use of the Skills Builder Framework to close the skills gap, move the dial on social mobility and ensure robust essential skills development for all.  

This month we’re speaking with long-standing Skills Builder Partner Allen & Overy. Allen & Overy is a global law firm with approximately 5,650 people working in more than 40 offices worldwide. They have worked with Skills Builder since 2016, towards our shared ambition to build skills and raise aspirations.

Emma Turnbull and Sue Wisbey, Community Investment Managers at Allen & Overy, share how our partnership has evolved over the years and what Collective Impact means to them…

Inspiring young people through exciting workplace visits

Since they first opened their offices to students from Skills Builder partner schools in 2016, Allen & Overy have given nearly 600 young people an inspirational glimpse of the workplace. One Year 7 pupil told us after their trip, “I've had so much fun today and normally I'm really shy and wouldn't speak at all! I've learnt so much about Law and about the skills, especially speaking in front of people.”

Hosting a workplace visit is one of the most popular ways our corporate partners choose to work with us, to help students from our partner schools understand how the skills they are building in the classroom will be vital in the world of work. Sue from Allen & Overy explained:

“The reason we work with Skills Builder is that we can see how your sessions really connect with the important elements of skills development for young people. Visiting offices like Allen & Overy, it’s really important for students to see a diverse group of employee volunteers, understand about the different careers available, and make that link back to skills.”

When lockdown first hit, and Skills Builder had to adapt our workplace visits to be delivered remotely, Sue admits that the team were unsure if they’d be able to deliver that same impact through virtual volunteering. In the end, remote volunteering has opened a new world of opportunities for staff at the firm and young people across the country, enabling the firm to reach regions of the UK where young people wouldn’t normally have the chance to engage with multi-national employers. Sue explains,“It’s really important for us to help young people to think about their careers, outside of their local town.”

Empowering a local school to embed essential skills

Many of our corporate partners already have strong relationships with local schools who they support in a variety of ways, and enabling these schools to take part in Skills Builder’s transformative year-long education programme, the Accelerator, is a great way to amplify their impact.

At Allen & Overy, they have been supporting Christ Church Primary School – a small community school five minutes from their London office – since 2007. With Allen & Overy’s support, the school has undergone an impressive transformation, from struggling to meet government targets to becoming one of the top schools in the country for the progress it achieves with pupils. Allen & Overy have offered holistic support to enable this transformation, from a volunteer reading scheme to financial support to enable curriculum development, and this has included helping the school to make essential skills a central pillar of the curriculum, by sponsoring multiple years of Skills Builder’s support.

Driving Skills Builder innovation in Further Education

Collective Impact Partners like Allen & Overy play a crucial role in achieving system-wide change in essential skills development, by providing the funding which enables us to develop new programmes, extend into new areas, and grow the number of individuals we can support.

 Thanks to Allen & Overy’s financial support, we have been undertaking an exciting three-year project to develop a tailored programme of support for Further Education colleges and sixth-form schools, transforming how young people on the brink of their adult lives are supported to build the skills they will need to thrive. Emma explained:

“The innovative side of piloting the Skills Builder approach with an age-group you hadn’t worked with before was really interesting for us. We know that students at FE Colleges may have missed out on a lot of key support at primary and secondary school, but through this project you were able to show it’s not too late to build those essential skills. We were delighted that the numbers of young people you’ve been able to impact through this investment is beyond what you had predicted.”

Thanks to the kind support from Allen & Overy, over 20% of FE colleges across England are now working to achieve a whole-college approach to essential skills development through the Accelerator programme. We’ve also been able to build robust evidence of best practice within Further Education working with the Association of Colleges and Department for Education to ensure this best practice is carried into education policy.

Embedding essential skills across Allen & Overy’s outreach

What makes our partnership with Allen & Overy so special, is that they don’t just volunteer with us and fund our programmes, but they also undertake their own innovative work to build essential skills and broaden aspirations using the Skills Builder Framework through a range of outreach activities.

For example, Bella at Skills Builder is currently working with the Allen & Overy team and Christ Church Primary School to create a range of resources which focus on careers and skills for primary school students, with the ultimate aim of creating a ‘mini work-experience’ for this age group.

Another area where Allen & Overy have embedded essential skills, is through their award-winning Smart Start programme for Year 12 students, which since 2009 has enabled over 1,500 young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds to access high quality work experience. Sue adds,

“It’s so important that these young people understand what skills like ‘teamwork’ and ‘leadership’ are, and that they’re able to translate that into examples of when they have used these skills in a real-life context, when applying for a job or further training. On our work experience week, all of the activities are linked to the Skills Builder Framework, and participants have the opportunity to reflect on when they used each specific skill, and how they would talk about that in an interview.”

Championing Collective Impact

Over our five-year partnership, Allen & Overy have really driven forward the Skills Builder mission, enabling thousands of students to build their essential skills through the Accelerator, opening up their offices to hundreds of young people, and driving innovation by supporting work experience participants to identify, build and demonstrate their essential skills.


With Collective Impact partners like Allen & Overy, we truly believe we can change the system, creating a world where every individual is equipped with the skills to succeed in life- whatever success looks like for them.

Read more