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You Can’t Be What You Can’t See

Catherine Boland is Head of Community Engagement for North East England at Founders4Schools & Workfinder. Catherine also holds voluntary roles as a North East LEP Enterprise Adviser, National Careers Week Ambassador, Big Youth Group Ambassador and a Mentor with the Girls Network and North East Futures UTC.

My Journey into CEIAG (Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance)

Around three years ago, I had no idea that my line of work would ignite a passion to support young people with the transition between education and the workplace. At the time, I was working as Head of HR at As part of our talent acquisition strategy, we worked with local schools and colleges to build a talent pipeline for the future. We also wanted to raise awareness of our business as an SME employer in the North East.

A chance meeting with Marie Jobson, Head of Guidance at Churchill Community College (CCC) led to me taking part in a pilot work experience programme in February 2017. Part of the research project, which was between CCC and Dr Nicholas Spencer at MDI Northumbria had an aim to develop a programme to support Gatsby Benchmark 6, Experiences of the Workplace. We hosted six Year 12 students, following a project based model, an alternative to the traditional week long programme spent solely in the workplace. The students spent one full day on site but were linked to the business throughout the week and delivered a presentation on the final day. Their understanding of the business, culture and the insight they had gained within a relatively short space of time was very impressive. Their passion for the project and excellent team work was rewarding to see. Based on their feedback, we increased the time in the business to two days when we hosted Year 10 students in June 2017.

It was a hugely valuable project to be involved in, both in terms of the opportunity for the students’ taking part but also for the team members who supported with the site tour, company presentation and career speed networking. Colleagues were proud to be working for a company supporting the local community and it also offered personal development opportunities for the team in terms of their own presentation and communication skills.

My recent career path

In October 2018 I joined Founders4Schools, a national charity dedicated to improving the life chances of young people by connecting them to successful business leaders in their local community. Our Workfinder service allows young people to source local work experience opportunities that match with their interests, goals and aspirations. I’m currently working on a project to collate case studies of meaningful work experience programmes. This has been a fascinating project to work on and I have been encouraged by the variety of inspirational programmes available. To quote from a report we recently commissioned – Making Work Experience Fit For Purpose.

“We are trying to support young people to develop resilience and give them encouragement to just spread their wings and fly”

Morag McLoughlan, Service Manager for Schools, Learning an Education Stirling Council.

‘You can’t be what you can’t see’

The world of work is changing rapidly. Offering a young person insight into a business can broaden their knowledge, raise their aspirations and potentially kick start a future career pathway.

I cannot stress enough the value in offering every young person access to valuable experiences of the workplace, their lack of cultural capital should not be the barrier to this. It provides a crucial opportunity to build confidence, problem solving and team building skills along with many other essentials.

Many businesses are facing challenges in relation to sourcing talent, visibility of their sector and an aging workforce etc. I would encourage HR professionals along with their SMT to engage with their local LEP’s, consider becoming an Enterprise Adviser, support National Careers Week, find out more about the work the Big Youth Group are doing and sign up to Workfinder!

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