Young People Celebrated at Employer-Driven Skills Conference

Published Tuesday 6 March 2018 in Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, Sheffield

The first Better Learners Better Workers Conference took place at Cutlers’ Hall on Wednesday 28th February, where attendees celebrated the success of the world of work programme that is making a difference to thousands of young people and raising aspirations across South Yorkshire.

Despite the severe weather conditions, supporters, employers, schools and young people involved, all took part in the event.

Better Learners Better Workers is an employer-driven education programme that helps young people develop the skills, knowledge and behaviours to succeed in the workplace. It was founded in 2012 by prestigious employer body, the Cutlers’ Company, who played a key role in designing an Engineering programme in four schools. Since then, Better Learners Better Workers has developed to offer tailored programmes across a range of employment sectors in over 30 schools across South Yorkshire.

Young people on the programme, known as Ambassadors, are selected through an interview process in Year 8 and begin the programme in Year 9. Over the course of two years they develop the necessary skills to succeed in the workplace, in education and in life by taking part in over 100 hours’ experience of the world of work.

The conference celebrated the achievements of these Ambassadors with a range of guest speakers from the national Careers and Enterprise Company, Westfield School, Sheffield, and former Ambassadors now graduated from the programme.

Abdul Bathin, Regional Lead for North East Midlands, and Cameron Nimmo, Partnership & Community Manager, from the Careers and Enterprise Company, funders of the Better Learners Better Workers programme, spoke about the positive effects of the programme and the growing need for schools to prepare young people with work-ready skills, as outlined in the government’s new careers strategy.

They explained that just 4+ interactions with the world of work whilst at school meant that 86% of young people were less likely to become NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) and could earn upto 18% more whilst in work. Better Learners Better Workers offers Ambassadors over 100 hours of interactions with the world of work, including employer mentoring sessions, workplace visits and work experience.

Abdul said: “It was an absolute pleasure attending and speaking at the ‘Better Learners, Better Workers’ conference. Despite the weather conditions, a number of employers, schools and partners came out in force to celebrate the impact the programme has had in the area. We are pleased to have supported such a strong programme and we’re particularly blown away by the young people who spoke at the event, their development on the programme has been truly inspirational!”

Attendees also heard from Gary Simmons, Deputy Headteacher at Westfield School, who has been involved with the programme since its inception in 2012. Westfield are long-standing advocates of Better Learners Better Workers and have taken hundreds of pupils through the programme. The programme is helping to raise aspirations in the school, widening participation in higher education and positive progression routes, and has helped to improve pupil premium attainment.

Gary said: “We signed up to this programme to raise aspirations and we have had magnificent experiences with students who take part. It is fantastic to see employers on this programme championing the young people taking part, helping to change aspirations and create opportunities for them. We want the Better Learners Better Workers programme to reach all of our pupils.”

He added: “A group of our Ambassadors recently delivered an outstanding presentation at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals to a number of headteachers – something they could not have done 18 months ago before taking part in this programme. The confidence they displayed was exceptional, confidence which came from knowledge and experience given to them on the Better Learners Better Workers programme.”

Attendees then took part in a workshop where they heard about the experiences of two alumni Ambassadors, Kelsey Parker and Manvir Sidhu.

Kelsey Parker, who took part in the Engineering Programme at Westfield School, and is now studying A Levels at Wales High School said: “I joined the Better Learners Better Workers engineering programme because my Dad works in the engineering sector. We did all sorts of great things through the programme. I was able to visit different engineering firms and see hands-on what it’s like on the shop floor but also in the offices.”

She added: “I went on work experience to Tinsley Bridge Group and absolutely loved it. Every single day I was in different parts of the business from finance to 3D printing to the shop floor. Because of that experience, I decided that I want to become a metallurgist. It opened my eyes to all the different opportunities in engineering.

Manvir Sidhu, also took part in the Engineering Programme at Westfield School but has now decided to pursue a career in Media, and is studying at Thomas Rotherham College. He said: “When first I first signed up for the Better Learners Better Workers programme in Year 9, I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I thought it would look good on my CV. I chose engineering sector programme and at that time I thought engineering was just about making things on the shop floor. As I progress, I realised there was so much more to engineering than I knew. It encouraged me to find out more.”

He added: “I’ve since gone on to become a National Citizen Service (NCS) Youth Sport Leader. I have an action day coming up on 17th March when I’m leading a sponsored walk. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without the Better Learners Better Workers programme. It’s given me lots of transferable skills for life which are helping me to progress. I’ve realised that my ambition is to go into broadcasting because I like to interact and talk with people – I’d love to become a talk show host!”

The event concluded with the annual Better Learners Better Workers Passport Ceremony, where current Year 11 Ambassadors attended to receive their Skills Passports.

To find out more about the Better Learners Better Workers programme visit our about page.

Better Learners Better Workers