On 24 May I attended the celebration and awards event at North Warwickshire Borough Council that marked the end of the six weeks North Warwickshire Aspire project run in partnership between North Warwickshire Borough Council and the Department for Work and Pensions with the for the students of The Queen Elizabeth Academy, Atherstone. The young people who had participated attended with their mentors in the Council Chamber to receive their certificate from the Mayor.
What is North Warwickshire Aspire?
North Warwickshire Aspire is a schools engagement project which combines volunteering opportunities for civil servants with personal and career development, whilst making a difference to young people’s employability prospects.
North Warwickshire Borough Council and the Department for Work and Pensions partnered to deliver the project to year 10 students of The Queen Elizabeth Academy, Atherstone.
The programme supported the students to develop their key skills in preparation for life after education, developing confidence with a view to improving their employability prospects, fostering positive attitude towards the world of work.
14 Students from Year 10 participated in the two hour sessions each week for six weeks.
The sessions were led by a topic expert and supported by mentors to work with the students on a one to two ratio throughout the six weeks.
The six week interactive programme in Atherstone incorporated a range of activities including elements such as:
· How you are perceived by others
· Working as a team to complete a task
· Customer service
· Budgeting and finance
· Writing cvs and covering letters and how to present yourself well to a potential employer.
I came along to week six where awards were given to the students who had participated by the Mayor of Atherstone, Denise Clews. The students also got to hear what their mentors thought of how they had engaged and progressed through the programme. It was a wonderful celebration of their achievements.
"Are you really the mayor?"
It was great to see the young people so relaxed chatting over tea and biscuits beforehand.
One the girls asked Denise “Are you really the mayor?” And she joked with them about how different she looked in her ceremonial gown and chain compared when they had last seen her in a high visibility jacket and big boots at the Ediblelinks warehouse.
Create and market the best food hamper
The “Apprentice” style enterprise task which took place in week four enabled the young people to display the skills they had learnt. The two teams “Moneymakers” and “Happy Holidays” visited local charity Ediblelinks and using food donated by Ocado created hampers which would be used to sell raffle tickets. The task involved the children thinking about who they were markerting the hamper at, what to include to appeal to those people, how best to present it. They also needed to think about money security as they sold the tickets and a pricing strategy. The children also thought about and made a pitch for which charity the funds raised would be donated to.
Raising funds for Young Carers
A powerful and successful pitch was made to donate the funds raised to young carers, a charity close to the hearts of many of the children who were young carers themselves. Moneymakers raised £42 and Happy Holidays raised £64.20.
After the event I spoke to Julie Taylor who led the project:
“The students were selected by the school as the pupils that needed some additional support in preparing for the transition from school either into work or further education so I thought this would be a real challenge but they were respectful, well behaved and good ambassadors for their school throughout the programme. ”
The mentors comprising of staff from DWP and NWBC were integral to the delivery of the project and really benefited from working with the young people through the project helping them develop their communication and motivation skills while supporting the students to achieve and realise their own skills sets.
I also spoke with Bill McCann Community Projects officer at North Warwickshire Borough Council and one of the mentors. We talked about the soft skills that mentors like him can share; tips about body language; standing up straight; and dressing smartly. How sometimes hearing these messages from an adult who is willing to invest their time in you might just make the difference. Particularly if you are seen as disruptive at school and receive no encouragement at home.
“When you are getting a response from them and they were responding you think have I done well, but really it’s more haven’t we done well as a team?”
The Aspire program was about improving the employment prospects and confidence of young people but it achieved much more, including raising money for the Young Carers Charity and inspiring one of the students to volunteer at Ediblelinks on a regular basis.
Do you feel inspired:
· to do something just a little bit different from your day job?
· develop new skills; and
· improve the life chances of vulnerable citizens?
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