A pioneering new scheme developed by Heathfield Community College in coordination with Wealden Works and local employers celebrated its first graduates last week.
Listen to a clip from BBC Radio Sussex about this project.
The scheme developed by Headteacher, Caroline Barlow in partnership with Wealden Works was devised over a year ago in response to a desire to provide first class support for those students most likely to be seeking employment or training at 16. Working with local employer volunteers a programme was developed with different input on a weekly basis which utilised the expertise of local stakeholders who care about improving young people’s life chances. This provides students with the knowledge, skills and confidence to be able to be successful in the workplace.
Launching the scheme with just three students in the first instance meant everyone involved was a pioneer forging the programme; working together to make sure it was refined to provide the bespoke support that would give Heathfield students the edge in any future employment situation. The programme benefited from enabling the mentors to receive coaching training via the College Enterprise Adviser Paul Mehran.
The role of local employers was vital throughout, the generous commitment of time from Sally Frost of Newton and Frost (NFF Ltd), Trevor Goldsmith of Goldsmith and Allcorn Motors and John Abbott and David Saunders from Kingsline made a big difference. Over the course of a year, these local employers met with the young people for a fortnightly mentoring meeting, exploring their success in school, discussing any barriers they might be facing and how their experiences related to the workplace. They also provided bespoke and highly personalised work experience.
Equally important were the employability skills that the students gained from modules delivered by Wealden Works. Both Lisa Crozier and Tora Bowdler gave time to deliver knowledge and skills on different forms of employment, interview preparation and CV building. This was enhanced by lessons on the structure and different forms of business from Miss Lynch in College. By the time the students sat mock interviews at the end of the programme with alternative employers they were well prepared to present themselves successfully.
The employers have been positive in their recognition of the progress made by students.
John Abbott from Kingsline said “I have enjoyed being a part of this mentoring programme and being able to help the students to develop some life skills”.
Sally Frost from Newton and Frost (NFF Ltd) said of the programme “I feel it has been of great benefit to the students and both they and I have learnt a lot along the way.”
Lisa Crozier of Wealden Works stated: “The sessions with the students were interesting and very interactive and it was nice to see the enthusiasm from the boys. It was good to see how they had taken some of the advice and knowledge on board and then put this into practise within the next session.”
Headteacher, Caroline Barlow is delighted with the outcomes from the first pilot year. “I am hugely grateful that with the support of local proactive employers and members of our community we have managed to achieve a programme bespoke for our students of such value. This is something that in other areas, schools and colleges are centrally funded to do. Due to our location we receive no such funding and so it speaks volumes about the Heathfield community that we have managed to construct something so positive to support students by the power of working together. It is incredibly rewarding and we look forward to sharing the programme with more young people in the years to come.”