Ready for the world of work


St Helens Chamber logoAfter surveying 100 employers of various sizes across Merseyside, St Helens Chamber were able to ascertain what businesses expected of young employees. The main finding was that employers were more interested in young people who were enthusiastic, interested, reliable and punctual rather than in the number and level of qualifications they had gained at school or college. The Chamber used this information as the foundation for their new Work Ready – Chamber Approved programme.

The aim was to prepare young people for the world of work, in particular for Apprenticeships. The organisation wanted to make sure that young people were acutely aware of and prepared to meet the demands of employers. Only those who could demonstrate that they were ‘work ready’ would be eligible to go forward for the Chamber's Apprenticeship vacancies.

Young people attend the course during typical full-time working hours – 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday – and dress as if they were working in an office environment. The programme runs for between three and 11 weeks, allowing students to complete training and qualifications to fill the gaps in their employability skills.

ASDAN’s Employability Level 1 qualifications form a key part of the programme, providing structure and accrediting learning. Tutors use the Maintaining Work Standards, Introduction to Working with Others and Learning through Work Experience units to make sure young people are ready to enter the working environment.

Participants develop portfolios to accurately market their skills and abilities as well as taking part in mock interviews and individual tutorials. Each programme ends with a Meet the Employer event where young people have an opportunity to speak to businesses in an informal manner to set up interviews and work trials.

Between September 2012 and January 2013, 88 young people embarked on Work Ready, of whom 29 have progressed into Apprenticeships, nine into employment elsewhere and four into further education. Fifteen are still on the programme, while a further 30 have been Chamber Approved and are attending Apprenticeship interviews.

Learner Case Study: Anna

Anna left school with a good standard of GCSEs and went on to complete a Level 2 Beauty Therapy qualification at an FE college. However, she decided that this wasn't the path she wanted to follow and is now pursuing a career in Health and Social Care, having had experience of caring for family members during periods of illness.

Through the Work Ready course, Anna was able to identify barriers that were preventing her from gaining an Apprenticeship in this sector and started working through these issues. By the end of the course she had secured her place on a Level 2 Health and Social Care Apprenticeship.

Anna has a criminal record, which will be picked up by CRB checks, so she was less confident about applying for jobs for fear of being turned down. Tutors discussed how Anna could broach this subject with an employer to make it become more positive and show she has turned a corner.

She also had no work experience within a Health & Social Care role and so this was identified and addressed as a priority. Anna was keen to undertake work experience – not only to add value to her CV, but also to confirm that it was definitely the area of work she wanted to pursue as a career.

Anna admitted that she smoked cannabis, which had a negative impact on her attendance and timekeeping on the Work Ready course. A plan to tackle this issue was formed and, along with advice from her counsellor, she managed to improve her performance significantly.

She achieved the ASDAN Employability Level 1 Award and Ascentis Health & Safety Level 1 Award as well as completing a work experience placement in a local care home. After meeting an employer at one of the Chamber's Meet the Employer events Anna secured a work trial with a company providing respite care within the local community. As a result she was successful in securing a paid Level 2 Health and Social Care Apprenticeship.