Learning and Skills Council Case Study: Career Academy 

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Client Profile

Industry Sector: Public Sector

Number of employees: 3,500

Location: England

Challenge

Career Academies UK is an organisation that was established in response to the challenge of raising students’ aspirations about their future, especially those from inner city or disadvantaged areas. The organisation works in partnership with a number of schools, colleges and businesses to open up opportunities for young people, and give students every chance to reach their potential. In its role to improve the skills of England’s young people, the LSC partnered with Career Academies UK to create a number of six-week internships for a group of Career Academy students across different LSC departments and regions including Coventry, London, Manchester and Gloucester. The LSC wanted to ensure that the students, all aged between 16 and 19, gained maximum benefit from these six-week placements and, based on a long standing and trusted relationship, approached a&dc to design and deliver a structured programme of learning modules to complement the work experience that would be gained during this time.

a&dc clearly understood the need to design materials that were highly practical to support the students in gaining relevant experience to aid their transition into the world of work. Given the target group, another key design requirement was to deliver these modules in an interactive and relevant style to ensure that levels of engagement were high. Another challenge for a&dc, and indeed the LSC, was that very little was known about the students prior to their joining the LSC.

Without knowing much about the students’ background, education or motivation for the internship, a&dc’s task was to design six learning modules that would help develop essential skills required for the world of work. In conjunction with the LSC, we wanted to ensure that the combination of experience and the taught modules would allow students to develop increased confidence, improve their interpersonal skills and ultimately leave with raised ambitions about their future and the types of job opportunities they might pursue.

Solution 

a&dc designed a modular programme of six one-day workshops, with one session being run each week. Following focus groups with student interns, we identified the most useful learning and development areas for people with limited work experience. An interesting outcome to this session was that one of the most challenging things when starting work can be adjusting to the office environment. The interns reported that you start work with limited knowledge of office etiquette, and getting to know the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of office life can be daunting. This led to the initial design of the programme, which was finalised in consultation with the LSC. A few adjustments were also made in order to integrate with any stipulations from the wider Career Academy delivery model, eg mentor provision. The final programme consisted of the following modules:

  • Module One – ‘Welcome to Work’: The all important induction event. It included interactive exercises, an LSC quiz and videos of good and poor office etiquette for students to discuss and review.
  • Module Two – ‘Maximising Your Potential’: This was to encourage students to identify their strengths, how to prepare for their future career and ultimately maximise their potential. Techniques included producing achievement records, identifying their role models and understanding why they admired these individuals.
  • Module Three – ‘Great Communication’: A variety of practical and interactive techniques were utilised to help students improve their communication skills. Using blindfolds and building blocks they learned the importance of two-way interaction, listening and non-verbal communication.
  • Module Four – ‘Presentation Skills’: A highly practical workshop to help students learn to present. A range of techniques and tips were offered, examples of good and bad presentations provided and students had the opportunity to practice delivering presentations and gain feedback on their performance.
  • Module Five – ‘CV Writing and Interviewing Skills’: Included detail of the different available routes into the job market, how to design an effective CV and a session for participants to explore different interview techniques.
  • Module Six – ‘Celebration Event’: The culmination of the modules where students gave a presentation to an audience of LSC Managers about what they had learned across each of the sessions. We incorporated this into the programme by designing a ‘learning log’ which students had to complete between each of the modules. The learning log was used to allow students to reflect on what they had learned, think about what they needed to do before the next session and also encourage them to apply their learning upon return to their intern roles the following day. We also included exercises around career planning, the importance of staying positive, happy and healthy and tips to effectively manage stress.

In order to ensure the programme was informative and engaging, we employed a range of innovative delivery methods to communicate the information to the students. Our learning material ranged from the use of YouTube videos, quizzes, interactive media and even Human Bingo! The target audience necessitated this novel delivery style, to encourage the students to participate and interact, as well as help them make the transition from a traditional classroom environment to workplace learning.

Outcome

An evaluation process highlighted a range of positive outcomes for the students.  Immediate workshop participant feedback was gathered from the students with regard to the perceived usefulness, relevance and how enjoyable they have found the sessions. A 1-5 scale was used, where 1 was the most effective:

The course was useful 1.77
The course was relevant for my needs 1.75
The course was enjoyable 1.90

The LSC also gathered detailed qualitative feedback from the delegates, a sample of which is shown below:

  • “The modules were all different and I feel this helped us gain new skills to improve ourselves. All the modules gave the interns a sense of professionalism of what to do and how to behave in the workplace”.
  • “I liked how the people who ran the course each week made it enjoyable, interesting and relaxing, it wasn’t like a class or anything but we still learnt a lot at the same time”.
  • “I found it nice to see what I had learnt throughout the weeks as I could not remember what I did in the first week, after another four weeks of hard work, but the learning log helped to jog my memory and remind me of what I learnt from that session”.

What the client says

a&dc designed an engaging, inspiring, thought-provoking & enjoyable series of workshops, which, along with the LSC, they delivered with professionalism and flexibility to ensure that the audience needs were fully met.” John Hannah, Learning & Development Manager, LSC.