Year 10’s at Deptford Green and Chelsea Academy get a taste of the working world!

The Construction Youth Trust Work Experience programme is a 5 day employer-led programme designed to give young people an immersive insight into the world of work.

Work experience is an incredible opportunity for young people to experience the day-to-day realities of the workplace, interact with professionals, and begin thinking about their next steps. Particularly for industries like construction, which has a lot of misconceptions surrounding it, work experience is a great tool to dismantle stereotypes and introduce young people to hidden careers they might not have considered before.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and UK government lockdown measures, a whole generation of students have missed out on work experience opportunities and suffered a massive gap in their career development. On our Work Experience Programme, we bring the workplace to students. The programme is a microcosm of a week in a real professional team – young people take on specific career roles within the construction industry and create their own mini-companies, working towards a brief that is set to them by an external client.

Across the week, participants are required to undertake a variety of real world-of-work tasks specific to their own role, amalgamating their work in daily team meetings and dealing with the ups and downs of working life. Throughout the project, industry volunteers are on-hand to support with tasks and give a first-hand insight into their roles. The programme culminates with each mini-company presenting their project pitch to a panel of professionals, demonstrating how they have fulfilled the client’s needs to win the coveted contract!

“If you’re just walking by a construction site and you see all the workers laying out the bricks and stuff you’re going to think ‘construction is such a simple thing’, but actually working on it and doing it for yourself, that’s what opens your mind and makes you realise that not everything is as simple as it seems!” – Student, Deptford Green

The Trust piloted this new programme at Deptford Green and Chelsea Academy, supporting two entire year groups of Year 10 students as they discovered the incredibly diverse range of roles within the construction and built environment sector! Students were split into groups of 5 and took up the mantle of the Project Manager, Architect, Design Manger, Engineer and Marketing Manager to create plans for their very own local community centre!

We had over 35 professional volunteers attend over the two action-packed weeks to give students a genuinely immersive experience of what it is like to collaborate professionally. The programme was a roaring success for the students, who found the opportunity to immerse themselves in professional life a truly illuminating experience! Alongside their project tasks, the programme also included sessions that supported the development of the kinds of soft skills that are useful in the workplace, for example communication and presentation skills.

“This week whenever I have been in a session, I have been very impressed by the skills of the organisers and how they have totally brought out the best in our fantastic students” – Teacher, Deptford Green

Being able to deliver the programme to two schools, both with different capacities and needs, was a testament to the flexibility of the programme. At Deptford Green, the students’ classrooms were turned into Site Offices for the week, and we had volunteers attend both face-to-face and through Zoom. At Chelsea Academy, on the other hand, students worked remotely for two of the days and had to think creatively about how they collaborated, creating group chats, conducting group calls and using Google Meets to share their ideas.

It was fantastic to see young people from both schools grow in confidence and professionalism throughout the week as they saw their hard work pay off and their projects come together in the final presentations, which blew the professional panels away! Students rose to the challenge they were given, relishing the tasks and responsibilities afforded to them and surprising even themselves with their incredible teamwork as well as the innovative ideas they came up with. After the huge success of these pilot deliveries, we can’t wait to roll out the programme across all our partner schools!