Back to School….

BlackboardLast week I returned to my old school, Kirkcaldy High, for the first time since leaving as a sixth year pupil back in 1991. My colleague Laura and I had been invited by Audrey Diamond, Kirkcaldy High’s Principal Teacher of Guidance to take part in their 5th year student’s induction day. It was a fantastic event aimed at inspiring the 15 and 16 year olds to make the most of their year ahead by focussing on a number of key themes including enterprise, employability and creating opportunities for their own success and development.

There was also representation from a number of other organisations including the local council, Fife Airport, Royal Air Force, a volunteering organisation and Exxon Mobil.

Our contribution to the day was working with groups of pupils to look at employability, what employers look at when recruiting and how the pupils could start building evidence of their skills and abilities now to help when they enter the job market. We discussed how employers look at lots of different areas when recruiting such as experience, soft skills, technical skills and motivations (carefully ensuring we didn’t downplay the crucial role qualifications clearly play of course!). We drove the sessions toward helping the students identify what skills they may need to demonstrate to potential employers and to get them thinking about ways they could build up experience in the areas they identified as most relevant to their future career path.

Even with a topic I was so familiar with I’m still convinced I was more nervous than the pupils when the 9am bell rang and our first session began. However any concerns I had about how relevant or interesting this topic would be to the young audience soon disappeared and I know that it wasn’t just the pupils who learned a few valuable lessons:

What we hope they learned

Everything is an opportunity to develop yourself

As Thomas Edison said “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” We hope they now recognise that everything they work at from their coursework and part-time jobs, to programmes such as Young Enterprise, School Magazines and sports groups can be opportunities to develop their skills and experience.

It can be easy to miss what you are good at

Using their own real-life examples one pupil who worked in a local food shop realised that she wasn’t just working to get extra money but she was actively learning about selling, working under pressure, handling money and developing customer service skills.

Jobs often require more than just a qualification        

By showing extracts from mock applications from two candidates with the same qualifications as each other but with one applicant also showing evidence of relevant skills and abilities they could quickly see how you can make a stronger first impression with a hiring manager.

What we learned

They know what they want!

We ran an exercise where we turned them into recruiters, getting them to identify all the things they’d look for if they were recruiting a new Teacher for Kirkcaldy High School. (Click here for a summary of their requirements!)

Events like these are crucial

During the sessions we talked about a number of local employers including large, well-known companies who employ several hundred employees in the region. Most of the names were not known by the pupils highlighting the importance of opportunities like these induction days where young people in education can meet and learn about potential career opportunities and employers in their region.

Public  and Care sector is a popular career path

Another exercise we ran focussed around identifying requirements for the types of work they wanted to do when they left school. Many of course didn’t have a specific career path in mind as yet and whilst no precise research was carried out on the day it was clear that there were a high number of public and care sector jobs popular with the pupils, namely: Teacher, Childcare worker, Nursery Nurse, Maternity Nurse, Policeman and Army Medic. In addition I should point out there were also those hoping to be 3D Graphic Designer, Forensic Scientist, Engineer, Beauty Therapist, Architect and my personal favourite a Professional Drummer!

It was great to receive positive feedback from the students on the day and we really hope that we have, in some way, helped them as they start working towards creating their future careers.

We also would like to say thanks again to Audrey Diamond and Kirkcaldy High School for inviting us to take part in the day and would certainly encourage other employers to get involved in events like this in their local areas. Not only is it beneficial to the school and the students but I can confirm it’s a hugely rewarding way to spend your Monday!

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