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In conversation: Gemma Crane, Careers Lead - Thornhill 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.

Since working with the North East LEP, we have developed curriculum projects with employers and implemented new activities within our careers programme.

As Director of Learning for Business as well as Careers Lead, I jumped at the opportunity to take part in a small pilot to test the North East LEP’s newly developed Work Experience Framework earlier this year. Two other careers leaders and I worked with the North East LEP’s Skills Team to plan the delivery of work experience using the Framework, its 12 modules and accompanying material with a network of employers.

The Framework offers flexibility in delivery accommodating for virtual, face to face and blended approaches to working with employers. Modules can be customised and sequenced in such a way that the experience progressively develops learners’ skills as they work through the programme of delivery and can suit multiple delivery timelines.

We chose to deliver the Work Experience Framework in a flexible way that worked around our existing structures and timetables by using three fortnightly PSHE lessons to deliver pre-experience and skill development modules such as Company Research, Formulating a Travel Plan, Teamwork and Effective Project Management, before using two drop down days as part of our off timetable week to deliver live virtual encounters with employers using the Company Induction, Company Workplace Challenge, Pitching and Presenting and Employer Feedback modules.

Compared to previous delivery of work experience at Thornhill, using the Framework enabled me to work with employers with more structure and effectively communicate intended outcomes of the experience for young people with employers. The resources within each module have been well written and were accessible for learners.

Working with employers on a meaningful workplace challenge that has been developed by the employer brought authenticity to the experience for our learners. One student who worked with a local furniture retailer who was set a challenge to come up with marketing and promotional campaigns has even been asked to continue to work with the company, to turn her idea for a store mascot into reality and for this to be used in their store and future advertising campaigns.

One top tip I would give to other careers leaders and educators using the Framework is to match colleagues supporting the delivery of the experience to the employers or employer challenges that have been set according to their subject disciplines or interests. Staff buy in is greater and all involved will get more out of the experience. In our delivery, I matched our DT Teacher with the groups of learners working with Barratt Homes and as an end result, students were able to make scale models and go above and beyond the brief set with the extra support from teaching staff.