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26 June 2020

“But I’m not interested in construction.” 

“I don’t want to be a bricklayer.” 

“I see Lendlease on my way to school but know nothing about them.” 

These were some of the responses we got when HeadStart Action participants were introduced to the programme’s corporate partner. The sea of uncertainty, negative perceptions and nerves around the room was enlightening 

“You’ll be supported on the programme and will increase your employability skills, so by the time you get to your interview – you’ll be prepared.” Seemed to be the right response but it was the insight day that proved my words simply weren’t enough. 

The young people got the opportunity to visit Lendlease where they benefitted from talks with staff members – ranging from teenage apprentices to managing directors. They got to learn about the diverse range of jobs in the organisation as well as making suggestions on how Elephant Park in Southwark could attract the local community. They were involved in a myth-busting activity that allowed them to reflect on some of their more negative perceptions and they learnt how they can access the industry once they finished school 

During the day, you could see them reminding each other to ‘sit up straight’ and ‘act professional but what was most rewarding was the shift in our young people’s perceptions after only a few hours. 

For mostseeing young people only a few years older than them was inspiring. Hearing from people who looked like them was essential and being able to visualise themselves in a space they wouldn’t automatically explore created a desire to be there, not only for the work experience opportunity but as a potential career option 

The experience helped our young people to use their voices to influence change in their community. It also increased their level of understanding in what employers are looking for and the salaries discussed weren’t too bad either. But overall, they felt comfortable!  

“I’m going to be the CEO one day!” said 14-year-old Michael. 

Sometimes we forget that the world of work can be a strange and unfamiliar place. This is something that we all experience growing up, but that we soon forget about once we start out in our careers. We can’t underestimate the importance of employer insight days like these. And as we look at how we can support young people in the aftermath of Coronavirus, opportunities like these will be vital.

– Teean Smith-Robinson, HeadStart Action Programme Manager


Click here to find out more about our employability work.

26 June is marks ERSA’s Employability Day – you can see more updates on our Twitter.