This year’s National Careers Week (1-6 March) marks a double milestone, as it is also the final week before schools reopen in England, on Monday 8 March.
Many of us will be breathing a sigh of relief at this news, as we look forward to some degree of normality and hopefully a pathway to ending the pandemic.
It’s a fitting time to look back at a year of unprecedented disruption to our children’s education, but also of incredible fortitude and adaptation shown by teachers, parents, and of course young people themselves.
We don’t yet know the full impact this disruption will have on the careers of school leavers, but we do know that students have suffered a learning loss as a result of school closures and the priority now is to help them catch up.
That’s why I am so proud of the Learning to Succeed (LtS) team here at L&Q and the way we have adapted our LtS programme to meet the needs of young people during the pandemic.
LtS delivers STEM and practical careers advice and skills sessions through our partners at the Construction Youth Trust, to over 30 secondary schools in London.
A big thank you must also go to our volunteers from across the L&Q business who have continued to take part in sessions during the pandemic, sharing their career experiences so that students can benefit.
Over the past year, we have successfully moved many of our sessions online. Starting in the 2020 Easter school holidays, we contacted schools to understand how their situations had changed, reviewed our session programme to identify those that would work online, and considered digital delivery options that would engage young people.
From an initial aim of engaging 4,000 pupils, we have now held sessions with more than 10,000 students since the programme began. During the pandemic alone, we have run 597 sessions online.
A key lesson from the pandemic has been the benefits of a flexible approach. We had to adapt quickly, be open to new approaches, and listen to the needs of schools and pupils to keep the programme relevant and effective.
That’s why this academic year we brought in additional support to complement our existing programme, following feedback from schools on the impact of the pandemic on some pupils.
In previous years, we have offered up to five students per school a week’s work experience at L&Q in any department, but with our offices closed since March 2020 this has not been possible.
Instead, we have developed an in-depth targeted support programme for 40 students in years 11 and 13 who are at risk of failing to find work after leaving school, to help them develop the skills employers want.
Each pupil receives one to one support and a bespoke action plan to help them consider their future career path, and the pupils will still be able to access CV and application support from L&Q’s Employment Support team at the end of the academic year.
As one school Assistant Principal put it, “we have found the programme to be a great starting point to help our learners become aligned and focused with their future paths, particularly for those who weren't quite sure what they wanted to do. In the midst of a pandemic the programme helps to bring some hope to the young people and really does keep them engaged.”
Equipping young people with the knowledge to make informed decisions, building their confidence, and preparing them for the world of work so that they can realise their potential is central to building a better future for us all, as we begin to emerge from the shadow of coronavirus.
If you would like to find out more about Learning to Succeed or are interested in getting involved in the programme, please email LTS@lqgroup.org.uk