There has been not very much in the way of good news in the last 18 months. Things have and continue to be extremely challenging for everyone. But there is a group that have been particularly adversely affected - young people. Be it at school, college, work, university, or perhaps not in education or work at all, they have had their fair share of disruption and anxiety, in what should be some of the most enjoyable and happy years of their lives.
An Enterprise Adviser’s pandemic storySo as a volunteer Enterprise Adviser, the question for me was, what can I do better to help young people? The more usual careers support I could give to local schools had been greatly reduced because of the pandemic. However, it started to make me think. How would my employer want to meet their future workforce needs, and still link to the career aspirations of young people during these challenging times?
I work for Central Bedfordshire Council, and like many public sector organisations, we have really ‘stepped up’ during the pandemic to adapt quickly to support our residents, especially those who are most vulnerable. Like many organisations we have had to adapt to home working, flexibility around job roles, and increased use of technology. This experience started to inform my Enterprise Adviser role, by helping me think through with my colleagues, how Central Bedfordshire Council, as an employer, can adapt how it helps its young residents. Couple this with the insights from local schools’ careers leads, young people already working for the Council, conversations with colleagues at work, and great support from Peter Rayner, my Enterprise Co-ordinator; brought new knowledge and impetus to the council’s plans to support young people.
Here are three examples of how we are adapting:
We continue to offer a range of apprenticeship roles but will also now have centrally funded apprenticeships in more generic skills. This ensures a young person has a ‘platform’ to move to more specialist roles in the future. These generic apprenticeships include Customer Service, Project Management, Business Administration and Data Analysis. We work with our service areas to help them adapt to support young apprentices who may have to work from home.
All young apprentices also receive ‘wrap around ‘information, advice, and guidance during their apprenticeship, to help them prepare for their next role, albeit with, or outside of the council. Our apprenticeships are available from Level 2 to degree, and up to post graduate level.
We are also hoping to launch apprenticeships adapted for young people with learning difficulties in the near future.
With more council staff working from home, social distancing, and the increased use of technology, this has meant significant changing of our approach to work experience.
We are now planning to offer career ‘Insight Days’ to local schools to highlight the range of careers in the council, using the Speakers for Schools digital platform. Ensuring young people get to see the wide range of potential occupations open to them in local government and meet the people in occupations that many students probably did not know existed!
We will still offer some more traditional work placements, but these will be more linked to the vocational qualifications the young people are undertaking. The new T-Level qualifications would be an example of this.
Higher Education Student Placements
We want to offer varies routes into the council. So, there are links with local universities to take Higher Education students into the council on placements in hard to fill areas such as social work, planning, Educational Psychology, Data Management etc. Running alongside this will be opportunities for recent graduates to join various fast track programmes such as the Local Government Association national graduate programme; developing the managers the council needs in the future.
Some of these activities have started already, others are in the development stage, but certainly my role as a volunteer Enterprise Adviser has inspired me and informed my employer, Central Bedfordshire Council, in adapting how it supports its young residents now and in the coming years.