Nicola has been supporting Oathall Community College as their Enterprise Adviser (EA) since 2019. As an experienced HR professional with her own HR and Coaching consultancy, her interest in supporting young people with their career development began whilst working on graduate recruitment programmes.

Nicola has also worked in schools as an HR Director and has a good understanding of the education system, believing that essential skills such as confidence in communication, self-motivation and the ability to learn and develop new skills are vital for young people's employment prospects.

Making a plan

Nicola was completing a coaching course when she became aware of the EA programme and saw it as an opportunity to marry her coaching skills with her keen interest in helping young people.

She was matched with Oathall Community College, and after meeting with their careers team it was clear that the school already had some good initiatives in place for certain year groups. After completing the compass evaluation with the school, Nicola identified two main priorities – creating a robust careers programme across all year groups and upskilling the careers team.

With Nicola's help, the careers team began a review of the school's careers strategy with an emphasis on how to make their workplace interactions more meaningful.

The careers department were working with a limited budget which meant they had to be innovative and ensure the initiatives were cost-effective and impactful. Nicola and the team began by reviewing the school year calendar to identify slots within the curriculum when they could hold careers talks and events, such as careers assemblies and careers-focused events during tutor time or enrichment week.

Having an impact

Through building strong relationships, Nicola has become a critical friend who is supportive but challenging. She has helped the school with their strategic thinking and encouraged them to get buy-in from the SLT and governors. She was able to provide an employer's perspective and has suggested ways to make employer encounters more useful.

Just before the first lockdown, Nicola had embarked on a six-week programme for boys who had difficulty with motivation for their GCSE studies. This involved face-to-face workshops on motivation, creating a personal vision for the future, identifying strengths, obstacles and actions needed to work towards their ideal future.

Oathall Community College Careers Adviser, Krista, says:

'Nicky ran a programme of workshops with selected students to help them identify their aspirations, skills and identify key steps they can take to work towards achieving their goals. The aim of these sessions was to support the students to move towards their vision and identify what might be holding them back, ultimately building confidence and skills. During the first session, the students were invited to reflect and think about where they could see themselves in 10 years' time. This was clearly something they had not been asked to do before and it was interesting to see how some students had a fairly clear idea, whilst others found the task more difficult. In further sessions they were invited to reflect on their values, personality, strengths and weaknesses, challenges and obstacles.

Most students were fully engaged during these workshops and participated well, with several saying they enjoyed coming to these sessions and found them useful. I was very impressed with Nicky's presentation, methods and engagement with the students, and feel I have learned a great deal. I have taken all Nicky's fabulous ideas on board and she has certainly inspired me to create similar workshops in the future.'

Since lockdown, meetings have continued virtually. A SWOT analysis identified new priorities and the team are looking for innovative ways to support the careers programme in these challenging times. This included the delivery of a two-day careers programme for Year 10s in place of their usual workplace visit and observation days. Due to COVID bubble restrictions, Nicola needed to deliver eight back-to-back interview skills sessions, to help pupils prepare for college interviews that take place in Year 11.

Looking ahead

Nicola is keen to continue working with the Careers Lead to embed careers further into the curriculum and is also looking at ways to further engage alumni and parents in supporting the programme.

She's learned a lot from being an Enterprise Adviser and enjoys applying her coaching skills to understand the school's issues, as well as the opportunity to work with young people, give back to her community, and network with others:

'I have really valued this opportunity to work with a local school to help young people prepare for the world of work. I'd recommend the Enterprise Adviser role to anyone with strategic business expertise who can spare a few hours each month to help schools improve their careers provision and to develop key employability skills, ensuring pupils are ready to face the next phase of their lives.'