On Monday 26th November, organisations and businesses across Hastings opened their doors to over four hundred year ten and eleven students for the Hastings Careers Opportunity Day – a ground breaking, new immersive careers day.  Students from Hastings & St Leonard’s Academies, Helenswood, William Parker Saxon Mount and some electively home educated took part in free placements run by organisations including The White Rock Theatre, Ashdown Hurrey, Hastings Direct, The Conquest Hospital, Marshall Tufflex, The Jerwood Gallery, East Sussex College Hastings and Hasting Borough Council.

At each placement, students took part in a hands on work related ‘Day in the Life Workshop’ led by industry professionals aimed at giving them an authentic taste of the challenges and rewards of the workplace. A diverse span of professions included bricklaying, agriculture, engineering, politics, 3D animation, heritage, librarian, fashion and medicine, with young people given a taste of the rich variety of different jobs within each sector.

The students, who voluntarily attended placements of their choice during the school inset day, met with employees and employers who gave them an overview of the variety of different jobs within a given industry and the pathways to follow if they wish to pursue these careers.

The most well attended of the forty five placements was run by the Emergency Services, and saw around forty young people take part in a Road Traffic Collision workshop, normally reserved for training professionals. Three separate Road Traffic Collision exercises were conducted, including multiple vehicles, actors and even hostile training with actors wielding weapons. One of the attendees said: “I thought we were going to be sat behind a desk, but right from the beginning we were actually working with the teams to try and sort out the emergency.”

In placements elsewhere, young people took part in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style business pitch, shot a music video for local band ‘The Kiffs’, and designed their own logos for a new skatewear brand.

Ivy in Year 11 at St Leonards Academy said, “Photography is both my hobby and ambition and today I learned that it will take a lot of effort but it has motivated me to try harder at school.” Caitlin from Hastings Academy in Year 10 did a workshop in ‘Special Effects Hair & Beauty said: “It was interesting learning the next steps I will need to take. I’m now looking to do an apprenticeship then a degree.” Christopher in Year 11, also from Hastings Academy, did the practical workshop in graphic design: “I applied for this particular course because I’m interested in Photoshop. I was always a bit confused as to what exactly you did on a job but today we got a proper insight.”

Enrichment Co-ordinator, Emile Tambeh who was one of the organisers, said “We’re really happy with how the day went. It was a really huge undertaking to get so many employers on board, but to give this opportunity to so many, and to see the positive responses from hundreds of young people has been a great privilege.” Fellow organiser and Enrichment Co-ordinator, Ian Gillespie added, “We can’t emphasise enough the impact that career contacts have on a young person’s ability to visualise a career path as attainable. It was a very important element of today to have as many workshops as possible take place in a real world professional environment, led by the actual professionals  in order to break down that boundary. We are very grateful to the dozens of businesses and hundreds of professionals who took part.”

Andy Wilhard, who led the graphic design workshop said, “The students exceeded my expectations. Within one & a half hours they had devised and created their own logos and branding for a skate wear company. They each had wildly different designs, but each individual’s idea was totally perfect and fitted the brief I had given to them. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience – the students were responsive, respectful, very creative and open to thinking differently. I think that hands on experience and contact with the professional environment, really helps young people to visualise how they can use their skills in a real world setting.’

This trial initiative has been set up by The Hastings Opportunity Area – a three year programme funded by The Department of Education which aims to improve social mobility in those areas most in need in the UK.

Through research undertaken by the Department for Education, including direct polling amongst the town’s young people themselves, one key area which was found to be lacking in the town was the provision for careers experience and engagement with the world of work. Research from the Education and Employers Taskforce shows that a young person who has four or more encounters with an employer is 86% less likely to be unemployed or not in education or training, and can earn up to 18% more during their career.

Richard Meddings, chair of the Hastings Opportunity Area, said: “We are delighted that so many organisations and employers have come forward to take part in this exciting day.  We want all young people in Hastings to have the opportunity to succeed. Providing young people with opportunities to learn more about the world of work, to give them the chance to have real life ‘hands on experience’ of different sectors and to hear from professionals involved in those industries, is fundamental to broadening young people’s horizons and inspiring them to succeed in the future.”

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