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03 July 2014

Thursday 3 July

Matt Dronfield, Employer Engagement Manager at London Youth and member of the Talent Match London team, writes about his recent visit to Hall Mead School on their Enterprise Day and his thoughts on the importance of young people having a variety of work experience opportunities 

Making sure my top button was done up and my tie showing at least four strips, I packed my bag and headed back to secondary school, volunteering to join year 10 pupils at Hall Mead School in Upminster on their Enterprise Day, a day to encourage pupils to start thinking about life after year 11.

As part of Enterprise Day the pupils participated in several sessions, including imagining they were preparing a presentation for their own retirement speech talking about how they succeeded in their chosen career and what challenges they had overcome.

During the day I worked with over 120 pupils who were starting to explore what their next steps would be after Hall Mead; helping them to decide whether this would mean applying for a sixth form college, an apprenticeship or going into work. To help them start to think about this I took part in a series of mock interviews, including the completion of a mock application form for a college students were applying for.

Whilst supporting students to complete their mock application forms I had some really interesting conversations about what they had completed earlier in the year as part of their work experience.

Some students had really thought about what career they wanted to pursue and had been lucky enough to gain a placement in the relevant field, some others knew what they wanted to do but unfortunately weren’t able to secure a placement in their chosen industry and others who really didn’t know at all what they wanted to do had taken up one of the placements available to them through the school. All however had recognised the learning they had gained whilst on work experience and could quickly tell me if what they did would be a career they wanted to explore in the future.

I believe work experience can play a very important part in deciding what career you want to do, equally it can play an important part in deciding what career(s) you don’t want to do! What’s important is that as a young person, you should have the opportunity to be able to try something out and learn from it – it’s ok to decide it’s not what you want to do, as long as you can recognise the transferable skills gained from the experience.

At London Youth I work on Talent Match London, our employability programme for young people aged 18-24 who have been out of work or education for 12 months. I work with businesses to help create working environments where young people can build fulfilling careers for the long term – it’s a fancy strategic aim but can be broken down into three simple outcomes:

1. Work with employers to inspire and support young people to become job ready

2. Support employers to provide job opportunities and support young people into work

3. Ensure employers we work with champion young talent in the workplace

What became apparent during my discussions with pupils at Hall Mead School is that a two week work experience placement in year 10 is clearly not enough. Young people need the opportunity to test the water in different roles and industries before settling on the one that’s right for them. Unfortunately this is not always as easy as it sounds as many organisations are still not open to supporting work experience students. Many of our member youth clubs also offer fantastic opportunities to do this and are able to engage local employers who are willing to offer opportunities to young people.

The second thing that become apparent during the mock interview process was just how much the pupils benefited from a volunteer from outside of school working with them, having someone who was not one of their teachers that they saw every day really helped them to start to see things in the wider context.

Talent Match London gives employers the opportunity to get involved in all stages of a young person’s journey, so if you are interested and think you may have something to offer, please contact us on talentmatch@londonyouth.org.uk