BUSINESSES from across Warrington and Cheshire are being urged to get involved and work with more local schools to help boost employability among young people following a virtual work experience project.
Students have been given an insight into the working world, as part of a virtual work experience programme led by the Pledge Partnership, a consortium of nine groups across the region bringing young people and businesses together.
The scheme was piloted at Ellesmere Port Catholic High School in July.
It aims to tackle the challenges faced by both schools and businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic, giving year 10 and 12 students the opportunity to still take part in their scheduled work experience programmes.
As part of the project, businesses from across Cheshire and Warrington joined forces with teachers to use virtual and online tools, such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, to share their careers advice, while students were also set real-world business tasks to complete.
Businesses involved included Marketing Cheshire; agricultural business CF Fertilisers; glass manufacturer Encirc; youth theatre Minerva Arts; and electronic company Altimex.
Caroline Vile, headteacher at Ellesmere Port Catholic High School said: “Teachers have three loves – love of learning, love of learners, and the love of bringing the first two loves together. Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for today.
“Virtual work experience has allowed our amazing students to bring their skills they have alive in the real world of work.”
During their virtual work experience, employers hosted meetings via video conferencing and carried out last minute ‘drop-in’ sessions to give students an insight into the reality of working from home for a local employer.
Lee Wright, Talent and OD Specialist, Encirc said: “Getting more young people into STEM careers has always been important to us at Encirc, due to the significant and growing need to fill the skills gap in our industry. Despite the difficulties and challenges around working with COVID-19, we are delighted to have been able to provide valuable work experience, in a virtual setting.”
Davinder Lotay, Owner and Managing Director of Altimex commented: “Supporting students has always been a priority at Altimex and when Covid-19 hit we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to do so this year. However, this project has been a fantastic way for me to still interact with the students and show them exactly what we do here at Altimex. I was amazed by the creativity and some of the ideas they suggested were fantastic business solutions. It seems that this generation is more adaptable to technology and working virtually.”
Additional employers, such as Barclays and Skin City, also helped to inspire the young people through ‘day in the life’-style videos, while school staff also provided sessions on writing a powerful CV and covering letter, and maximising transferrable skills
Each team of students was also asked to deliver a presentation to their employer at the end of the week, received feedback on their content and presentation skills.
Among those taking part in the virtual work experience was Ruby AH, a year 10 student at Ellesmere Port Catholic High School, who said: “I’m thankful for how it has helped me to get a better understanding of my future and the workplace. It was made fun and creative, giving all the students a good, but also fun, understanding of the real world. I would 100% recommend this to any other school or year groups – it has been very beneficial and gave me a really good insight into what it’s like in the workplace.”
Now, the Pledge Partnership is looking to engage with more businesses across the region to continue to bolster young people’s employability and help meet the needs of businesses.
Joe Manning, Deputy Chief Executive of the Cheshire and Warrington LEP, said: “Recent months have certainly changed the dynamic of learning for students across the nation, and the Pledge has been working to support schools and colleges to adapt rapidly and make careers education as accessible and as seamless as possible.
“This project is part of the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership’s vision in ensuring all students are knowledgeable about the fantastic career opportunities that Cheshire and Warrington have to offer – and it was clear to see how impressed our local businesses with those students involved in the project.”
To find out more about the Pledge Partnership in Cheshire and Warrington, visit:
The Cheshire & Warrington Pledge Partnership is an employment programme which was launched by the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership along with North-West charity Youth Fed in 2019.