Could your business help a local school?

Comment & Opinion

MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL A volunteer from Mayo County Council and a Breaffy NS pupil having a lovely time during their first ‘Time to Read’ reading session. Pic: Twitter/@BITCIEducation

Guest Column
Tomás Sercovich

There has never been more pressure on businesses to take immediate, meaningful action to become more sustainable and socially responsible. While global discussions like COP27 have had the positive result of shining a light on the changes, we need to implement them immediately.
What does this mean for Mayo businesses, and how can they ensure that they stay on track to reach their goals for this year and beyond?
Business in the Community Ireland offers Irish businesses support as non-profit advisors in sustainability; environmental, social and governance (ESG); and corporate social responsibility in Ireland. We support the movement for change in business, with 120 of Ireland’s largest companies as members. Our mission is to inspire and enable companies and organisations to move Ireland towards a low-carbon, socially inclusive, nature-positive future where everyone thrives.
A huge part of this sustainability journey is working towards an inclusive society that is truly representative of today’s Irish society. At Business in the Community Ireland we are passionate about working with business to help level the playing field when it comes to access to education. We have a suite of education programmes that aim to develop mutually beneficial partnerships between schools and businesses in Ireland, and which support the Government’s overall strategy on educational inclusion.
We match schools that are targeted through the School Completion Programme with a local company. In fact, we are the only business-education programme in Ireland that receives matching Government funds under the National Development Plan.
Our programmes support students, principals and teachers in post-primary schools, and literacy and numeracy in primary schools. To date, over 448 partnerships have been established nationally, impacting over 43,000 students nationwide. ‘Time to Read’, for example, was first piloted in 2010 and has since involved almost 3,000 children. It provides an employee-engagement opportunity for companies to engage in one-to-one reading sessions with local primary-school children. Company volunteers are trained to use a variety of reading strategies to help the child develop their fluency and comprehension and therefore their confidence in reading.
In 2016, we piloted our Time to Count programme, which has since involved almost 1,000 children.
We also provide companies with opportunities to reach out and develop links with the future talent entering their industry sectors. Our World of Work and Student Mentoring programmes aim to bridge the gap between business and students preparing for future careers.
Nationally, some schools experience a higher-than-average rate of students leaving before completing their Leaving Certificate. Our aim has been to increase the student retention rates in these schools. By matching companies with these schools, we provide numerous opportunities for students to gain insights into some of Ireland’s largest companies, their career opportunities and to help them broaden their horizons. Employees can provide one-to-one mentoring to students – and the impacts on both students and employees is significant.

Mayo initiatives
In Mayo, we have worked with Vermillion Energy since 2008 and are currently linked with three schools in the Erris area – Coláiste Chomáin in Rossport and St Brendan’s College and Our Lady’s College in Belmullet.
There is also great support from Mayo County Council for our Time to Read programme for primary schools, and we have been working in primary schools – Breaffy NS, Castlebar Primary school (formerly St Patrick’s NS and St Angela’s NS) and Castlebar Educate Together NS.
Telus International, in Ballina, also supports this fantastic initiative, having been involved since 2013. Ballina Beverages, meanwhile, has worked with our secondary schools programme World of Work since 2008, rolling out the programme in Moyne College in Ballina and St Tiernan’s Crossmolina. Genfitt in Kiltimagh is partnered with Scoil Muire agus Pádraig in Swinford.
We are delighted to be able to run these programmes in Mayo but are always searching for more companies that would like to get involved. Currently we are in need of a partner for Davitt College Castlebar and are hoping to expand our primary-schools programmes, so please do get in touch if you think your company could help.

Tomás Sercovich is the chief executive of Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI), which provides advice on sustainability and corporate social responsibility. For more on BITCI and its programmes, visit, email or call 01 874 7232.