A PIONEERING programme which helps prepare school students for the world of work has achieved a milestone.

More than 21,000 link-ups between young people and businesses have now been created as part of the scheme.

And over 100 business leaders have been recruited.

The initiative – spearheaded by West Yorkshire Combined Authority – involves 130 schools in the Leeds City Region, including Keighley.

A series of employer-led activities is staged for young people aged 11 to 18.

There are careers fairs and mock interviews.

Drop-in sessions are held with groups and employers, such as Women in Science & Engineering to raise awareness of careers in STEM subjects.

Business bosses Skype into lessons, outlining practical ways in which the curriculum can be used in work.

And workshops are organised to promote apprenticeships and other technical avenues into careers.

The venture has also seen senior managers recruited as 'enterprise advisors', working with schools to shape their career and employment strategies.

The programme was founded on Gatsby Charitable Foundation research which showed that young people who have at least four 'encounters' with business are likely to earn around 18 per cent more during their careers and are 86 per cent less likely to become NEET – not in education, employment or training.

Among those taking part is South Craven School, at Cross Hills.

Pupils have been with working since last summer with Glynn Robinson, managing director of Leeds-based IT consultancy BJSS, and employees.

Karen Higson, the school's student advice and guidance officer, said: "I've had lots of positive feedback from the students who have worked with Glynn and his team.

"They have really enjoyed the opportunity to liaise independently with members of the business community outside of their usual school work, and the experience of using facilities like e-mail and web conference has given them a taste of what the working world is like.

"The students have been inspired."

West Yorkshire Combined Authority chairman, and Bradford Council leader, Susan Hinchcliffe said: "Connecting great education with business is key to delivering our employment and skills plan for the City Region to ensure that people here – including our young people – have the right skills to access the jobs our economy needs.

"By creating 21,000 encounters between our students and employers, we will inspire our young adults to look further, think bigger and reap the rewards of an economically-viable career."