David Black

Explain to our readers what Spark is and how it can benefit Schools and Students across the country?

Spark is a careers platform committed to improving the life chances of young people by bridging the gap between learning and employment, through a comprehensive, inclusive programme of live, interactive and professionally presented employer engagement events.

Focused on ‘sparking’ or igniting student interest in careers opportunities, Spark also provides information on over 300 different career paths and 35,000 plus university and college courses, whilst also listing full details on all current apprentice and job vacancies via a dedicated app.

For students unsure of what the future may hold, Spark offers an interactive careers quiz with personalised Independent Advice and Guidance [IAG] through a safe and secure instant messaging service, which directly links them to their Careers Advisor to ask questions or arrange a time to discuss potential career options.

Ultimately, we believe access to employer's career opportunities is a right not a privilege. In Spark we have created something that supports schools and colleges in their delivery of careers advice and in a format that is immediately accessible to Generation Z.

You recently announced the launch of the Spark app. How did the idea for the app develop and how has it enabled you to respond effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, Spark provided live employer engagement events situated in a school or college, which were professionally produced with a panel of relevant representatives, from Board Level through to trainee employees and apprentices. Each event was then streamed to participating schools and colleges across the country live, providing students in the physical audience and others at streamed schools to submit and have their questions answered.

Post COVID, this is no longer possible due to a combination of school closures and social distancing bubbles, so we worked hard to completely shift the events online, but ensured we retained the character of employer engagement to benefit both schools and students alike. 

In doing so, we have made both careers advice and live employer engagement events more accessible, delivering them in a format that students can interact and engage with from any location via a laptop or mobile device – regardless as to whether students go to school in deprived areas or are isolating from school due to positive COVID cases.

Explain to our readers what Spark Employer Engagement Events are and how such events help Schools meet the Gatsby 5 Benchmark?

All Spark employer engagement events follow the same process.

To start, we show an introductory film of each panel member being interviewed at their workplace. This not only provides the opportunity for students to explore and gain insight into the industry in hand, but also inspires questions for the live panel. 

Once the film has finished, our panel have a live and interactive discussion about their career and the industry that they work in. During this time, all students can submit and have their questions answered live. 

We have hosted events with major employers like the NHS, Colas and Volkswagen and most recently hosted a dedicated International Women’s Week event, which comprised of a panel of inspiring women from various industry sectors. 

 The live and interactive nature of these events enables schools to deliver on a number of the Gatsby Benchmarks and, very specifically, Gatsby 5.

How do you think the current generation of GCSE and A-Level Students will be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic long-term?

I think GCSE and A-Level students will form part of a highly challenged generation. However, I believe that the use of technology will enable schools and higher education establishments to truly address the challenges that they have and may continue to face.

We have been talking about how to incorporate technology into education and learning for years and now is the time to really maximise it and meet and engage with students in a space where they regularly interact.

Incorporating new technologies will also provide the opportunity to structure education differently, to transform students from passive consumers into active participants so that they not only acquire and learn new information but can use it in a positive and proactive way that enables them to develop and thrive both now and in the future. 

How can initiatives like Spark drive positive change?

Spark employer engagement events aren’t recruitment exercises for organisations, they have been created and are regularly hosted to ‘spark’ interest and present students with a wealth of career opportunities from different industry sectors. 

Through employer engagement events, we aim to help students raise their aspirations and sense of achievement, which – through the power of technology – can reach every single secondary school student across the country, eliminating challenges of geography or limited budgets. 

Prior to the launch of Spark, schools in rural, coastal and deprived areas have really struggled to host and create meaningful employer engagement events simply due to a lack of large employers being located in their area. Aside from overcoming this challenge, Spark drives inclusivity and social mobility, ensuring every single student has the same opportunity to learn about different careers from employers, employees and apprentices live, in real-time.

This isn’t something that has been achieved before in the education sector and is something we are incredibly proud of.

How do you envision work experience evolving – if at all - over the years now schools have adapted to new technologies and ways of working?

Work experience has evolved considerably over the years, but more so as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Spark is linked to many organisations that offer virtual work experience, such as construction firm, Colas. 

Although many could argue that an online experience isn’t the same as visiting a workplace environment, it opens up a wealth of opportunity for students in rural, coastal and disadvantaged areas who have always been limited by geography. Huge leaps have and will continue to be made into advancing online work experience and I believe this will prove incredibly beneficial for students across the country. 

How do students benefit from interactive careers guidance and should conventional models change?

All schools should have access to a qualified, independent careers advisor, who should typically deliver two interviews to all students aged 16 plus as part of the guidance process.

Technology provides the opportunity to improve this process and to make it more interactive – again providing a medium that really engages the student, as opposed to relying on the student to come directly to the advisor.  

This is where the Spark app offers a clear advantage, as it enables both the school and the advisor to offer a better service that can really engage students. Aside from providing an initial careers quiz that encourages students to think about their future, the app also offers an instant messaging service, connecting them to their career’s advice in a safe and secure way, on demand and in real time. Therefore, if a student is inspired following the results of their career quiz or has questions about different careers they are considering, they can send instant messages without having to wait for a formal interview process, which many find intimidating. 

Ultimately, the app addresses a very real need with student engagement and removes the perception of careers guidance as a box-ticking exercise. 

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel shared a video in channel. 7 hours 6 minutes ago

The Importance and Process of Quality Assurance...

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel shared a video in channel. 7 hours 7 minutes ago

Walking the Line Between Academic Integrity and...

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel shared a video in channel. 7 hours 11 minutes ago

Student Perspectives on the Impact of Race in...

Student Perspectives on the Impact of Race in Educational Surveillance and Proctoring Technologies

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page