Future of talent

Find out how Rebecca’s volunteer role accelerated her professional growth and progression

Rebecca Healy: Enterprise Adviser and CIPD student member, Stevenage

Whilst studying at Birkbeck, University of London, Rebecca was introduced to the concept of volunteering, and the Enterprise Adviser (EA) programme, during the CIPD Student member induction. She was inspired to find out more about the role and three months later was appointed as an EA.  This is Rebecca’s first volunteer role, and she has already experienced the benefits volunteering offers for herself and others, particularly for wellbeing and personal and professional development.

Working with the school

Rebecca Healy: Enterprise Adviser and CIPD student member, Stevenage

Rebecca has been supporting Saint John Henry Newman School in Stevenage, North Hertfordshire since 2020. Saint John Henry Newman has an established but developing careers programme, and the school’s Career Leader and the Hertfordshire Enterprise Coordinator saw the EA role as adding most value to support Gatsby Benchmark 1; “ensuring that the careers programme is sustainable and stable”.  For Rebecca, this meant creating a long-standing relationship and bringing in ‘business insight’. This involved taking a strategic approach including collating and interpreting data and evaluation of the current careers provision.

She found that the school had a lot of exposure and opportunities to create encounters with employers and workplace environments in addition to a whole wealth of resources to tap into. The school had been looking at embedding careers in the curriculum (Gatsby Benchmark 4) with the support of the Hertfordshire Enterprise Coordinator, and the introduction of projects which will assist pupils learning in STEM subjects. This includes working with large local employers (Cornerstone Employers) who champion early careers talent in their industry and are willing to support and develop projects over several years, not just for one encounter. Their employees deliver lessons and bring learning to life for pupils by associating their sector with subjects in the curriculum.

Rebecca’s role as EA involves strategic thinking and coaching and supporting the building of systematic elements to the school’s career department including evaluation of the careers offering, assisting the Careers Leader in recognition and celebration of work achieved, and encouraging the documenting of all activity. She also demonstrated to the school how different media and communication methods can be used to help pupils access information about careers and employers.

Challenges and working during the pandemic

Getting regular time in with the school was and remains a challenge. The best advice Herts LEP gave Rebecca was that “she is there to be a critical friend.” Rebecca agrees that this is 100% the right frame of reference, and to do this you have to have rapport with the school.

The pandemic added additional pressure on finding the time to maintain the rapport with the school; pre lockdown Rebecca had made time to go into the school to have a physical presence and get to know the school better. The shift from face-to-face meetings to virtual, although altering the school/EA relationship, has brought about opportunities. Rebecca and the Careers lead have built a peer-to-peer relationship, which supports them both with their personal and professional development. They have been able to meet during school hours to talk about specific topics alongside the Hertfordshire Enterprise Coordinator, and they have met after school hours to share ideas and good practice.

Impact for the school

Rebecca believes her biggest impact has been acting as a critical friend, who is independent and impartial, and a sounding board, supporting the Careers Lead in gaining additional confidence and offering different perspectives to situations and challenges faced. Through this support, the Careers Leader has advanced her skill set and passed her Level 6 qualification in Careers Guidance.

She has gained an appreciation of the nature of the Careers Leader role, which can be quite isolating even though it can be highly network orientated, and she urges EAs to ensure they are aware of the wellbeing element of the role in creating space for a Careers Leader to stop, reflect, re-group and collaborate.

Career progression

The EA role has widened her own career interests and has led to Rebecca being appointed as Trust Head of Careers at Chingford Academies Trust in June 2020. This has given her a new perspective, working from the other side.

“To get the best out of the EAs, Careers Leaders have to engage, be clear where they need support and if they are unsure the Compass+ evaluation report will help this conversation”.  

Getting the most out of your volunteering

Rebecca sees the EA role as an opportunity to support and add value but also to learn and develop her skills in a new sector:

“Volunteering as an EA has accelerated my professional development more than I could have imagined. As an EA I operate as a consultant and it gives me a lovely balance, and the EA role certainly provides scope for professional development in a different workplace setting. You get to craft your volunteer role and there is support from CIPD, The Careers and Enterprise Company and in my case Hertfordshire LEP.  Having a solid relationship with the school, will ensure they get the most from your support and equally you will gain professionally from volunteering.”