I first took part in the schools engagement initiative last year at a session on interview skills and preparation. It was extremely valuable, interesting and rewarding, so when the call came for volunteers for this year’s exercise I was very happy to put my name forward.
I enjoyed the fact that everyone contributed to the planning process and we all had different ideas and resources to offer. This allowed us all to practice our planning, communication and team-building techniques as well as indulging a child-like love of playing games!
It was a good experience in dealing with young people and reconnecting with what is important to them, and also what is important to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), where I work. I have benefited from this as much as the students, as it has given me an insight into young people’s lives. It has also made me think about the responsibility society has for creating an environment in which they can flourish and lead satisfying and fulfilling lives of their own.
This will enable them to contribute in the work place and beyond, in bringing up their own children when the time comes, and encouraging responsibility for each other and being part of a shared solution. It has been particularly poignant seeing the students’ vulnerability in dealing with their first interview, knowing they are at the start of their lives and careers with it all to come.
It was interesting to listen to the key note speakers from the Senior Civil Service and the senior management team who were honest and open with the students, and who freely gave their time to share their experiences of work and life, and of the lessons they have learned. It made me reflect on my own 30- year career, the great people I have met and the wonderful teams I have worked with. I also realised that I have “accidentally” obtained a varied experience of different jobs and different people, and have overcome obstacles and been stronger as a result.
The students were given opportunities to engage with mentors and their colleagues, listen to keynote speakers, develop communication skills, work as part of a team and present their work to others.
It was clear from their feedback that the students enjoyed the experience, and their development as confident individuals was evident over the course of the six weeks.
I feel I should share my experience and the inspiration that other people have given to me: small and subtle words and actions can change the world and other people’s experience of it.
I would highly recommend getting involved in this or similar activities, because speaking with and supporting these young people at the start of their lives and careers has given me a fresh, optimistic view. It can be a shot in the arm to a cynical, gnarly old civil servant in difficult times!
It was great to see how their confidence had developed by the end of the programme, and I felt proud to have had a part in working with great people to make this happen.
An article asking for volunteers jumped out at me, and I’m so glad it did! What followed was a fantastic six weeks, culminating in 12 students being more confident and gaining a number of new future work/life skills. This is a fantastically rewarding way of sharing your experience with young people and it’s clear from reading their feedback that the students enjoy the experience.