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In conversation: Emma Osmialowski, Careers Lead – St Aidan’s Catholic Academy

Following a pilot with four schools to test the newly developed and launched Work Experience Framework, Gemma Crane shares her experiences of testing Framework modules and working with a network of employers to facilitate meaningful encounters for young people.

Our Year 10 cohort successfully completed their work experience this year – virtually – thanks to St Aidan’s Catholic Academy being one of three schools in the North East to pilot the Framework with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership. A new but exciting challenge for everyone involved saw students complete a range of employability modules including teamwork, being an effective employee, problem solving, the recruitment process, effective project management and pitching and presenting. We delivered our work experience programme over five ‘off-timetable’ days with modules progressively sequenced to support learners develop their skillset before embarking on their workplace challenge.

Local employers, including Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Nissan, Saggezza, Seventeen Nineteen and Hallgarth Country Club and Hotel, kindly volunteered their time to ensure all pupils could engage in meaningful encounters. Employers presented a live company induction before setting their company challenge and providing feedback throughout the week. Pupils excelled in their challenges and really impressed the employers with their professionalism, confidence and hard work. Pupils were pushed out of their comfort zone when presenting back their challenge live to employers but without a doubt rose to the challenge! The feedback from employers has been phenomenal, and we hope that pupils take pride in their achievements in years to come. Two pupils working with Nissan were recognised for their workplace challenge solutions and presentations and were awarded with a voucher, Nissan water bottle and Bluetooth speaker.

As careers leader, coordinating work experience and working with employers is something I do regularly, however using the Work Experience Framework to plan and structure our week of encounters allowed the planning process to be much more efficient. The Facilitator’s Guides provided within each module enable employers to plan their company induction and workplace challenges independently, meaning I could concentrate on the logistics and delivery with colleagues in school. One top tip I would give to any school or college using the Work Experience Framework to deliver encounters with employers, is to ensure you take time to talk to colleagues helping you to deliver in school to ensure they understand the bigger picture. Share module resources with colleagues and partner employers ahead of delivery so they share the vision for the week.

Modules were easily accessible to students and staff liked the content and found learners got more out of using modules to structure their experience than they would have in some previous placements. “I have enjoyed my work experience week as it has given me an idea of how important certain characteristics are such as communication and teamwork. It has also given me an idea of what I need for the career path I want to take.” Another student commented “It was such an exciting opportunity, we found out so much about our partner company Seventeen Nineteen and what expectations they have of employees. The work experience has also opened up many opportunities for career paths, some of which I didn’t know about before this experience, this has given me a much greater variety to consider. I believe my work experience was a great success and I believe if it was face to face it would have been just as good as it was virtually.”

Thank you to the North East LEP for trusting us to deliver their Work Experience Framework during the pilot stage. Our boys have had such a positive and meaningful experience – a great alternative to face-to-face placements