“The virtual sessions prompted students to think about what kind of job would suit them, and what volunteering opportunities they could get involved in next. I also think it was so valuable for them to hear from a professional with similar challenges, to empower them about their futures.”
- Name: Erika Mariella Worrall
- School: Sheaf Training (SEND College)
- Role: Student Services Coordinator
- Area: Sheffield
- Date: March 2021
Tell us a little bit about your school.
Sheaf Training is a small SEND College in Sheffield City Region, with a mixed cohort of students who have varying learning difficulties. We offer different study programmes and Maths and English functional skills. Throughout the curriculum we ensure we are teaching our students valuable life and employability skills, such as independence, communication, team working and problem solving. We are looking to develop our careers programme for next academic year where our students can regularly meet employers from the world of work and hopefully visit their workplaces!
Why did you decide to get involved with Inspiring the Future?
I first heard of Inspiring the Future through my Enterprise Coordinator and I thought it sounded like a good way to provide encounters with employers. I wanted our young people to meet a range of local employers, learn about different job roles and hear first-hand the value of having employability skills, such as teamwork and creativity. I then had a call with Lara (the Senior Schools Engagement Coordinator) who helped me understand how to use and navigate the Inspiring the Future portal.
What kinds of activities have you held with Inspiring the Future?
As part of National Careers Week this year, we had multiple virtual sessions volunteers from Inspiring the Future which followed a simple presentation and Q&A format. All sessions had a minimum of 5 questions and each encounter lasted approximately 45-60 minutes. We decided to host these activities on Zoom as we are most familiar with that platform. Each volunteer talked about their job, the skills that were important in their role, different progression routes and they all shared valuable lessons they’d learnt along the way. One employer even provided students with a handout detailing various local opportunities they could get involved in.
Our students asked lots of different questions, including:
- Which employability skill do you think is the most important one?
- What are the different routes to getting a job like yours?
- How or what do you do to make sure your mental health isn’t negatively impacted?
- Who supported you to turn your life around?
Please share an example of an inspirational volunteer. What was their job role and how did they engage with the students?
One of the volunteers who attended was a Fire & Risk Consultant, who spoke about her experiences of leaving school with few qualifications and starting work with barriers including learning difficulties and mental health issues, which really resonated with our students. She shared her experiences of employers supporting her individual needs and emphasised the importance of managing your mental health.
What kind of impact do you think the activities have had on students participating – both long and short-term?
The virtual sessions prompted students to think about what kind of job would suit them, and what volunteering opportunities they could get involved in next. I also think it was so valuable for them to hear from a professional with similar challenges, to empower them about their futures.
What would you say to SEND schools interested in signing up with Inspiring the Future and delivering virtual activities? Are there any top tips you would share?
I would say that it’s important to communicate the specific needs of your students with your volunteers, so that they can tailor their talk accordingly. I spoke with all the employers twice before the virtual encounters took place to support them to gain a better understanding of our learners’ and their needs. I would also encourage them to use visuals, whether that be images, slides, or a video to make their presentation as engaging and stimulating as possible. I additionally suggested they offer small activities such as asking questions related to them and their learning and to encourage students to use the chat box to reply.
Once you get your head around using the portal, it’s so easy to access a huge pool of virtual volunteers- all you have to do is write your description and invite. Planning my first virtual encounter felt quite daunting, but don’t let those fears stop you from connecting with amazing volunteers from the world of work.
Learn more about engaging young people with SEND.
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