The age of 16, with GCSEs harrowingly looming, can be quite a difficult period in someone’s life. Not only are students tasked with studying relentlessly for their impending exams, but they must also consider what their next steps will be. Will they head into a career? An apprenticeship and further education are plausible options too.
These are the unnecessary demands on young people, who are completely unaware that it is fine to not understand what career you want to venture into at the age of 16. The school system, on the other hand, will insist they must know. Through limited career sessions, alongside work experience, the system believes that the children are equipped for their future – which is something that Working Options respectfully disagrees with.
“All of our students think that they must go straight into their career from school, but that is not the case,” said Rachel Roxburgh, CEO of the charity. Working Options focus on transforming the career and life opportunities for young people, aged 14-19, as they make the leap from the education system to the daunting working world. They’re currently partnered with more than 100 state schools and colleges in England and Wales, delivering their Career Pathways programme – where 65% are in areas of high deprivation.
Although they do target pupils from less privileged backgrounds, the charitable cause will help any student who qualifies under the age bracket. “We are open to all children. Even if students come from a more affluent background, it does not mean they will necessarily have the quality home life/education experience as everyone else,” Rachel noted. The charity provides Masterclasses and other sessions for their students, allowing them to gain insight into differing working industries.
Via workshops and presentations with industry partners, students who are attached to the charity are moulded for the working world in preparation. “We are saying to any young person: you can take control of this yourself – have belief. We’ll open your eyes to what is out there, and we’ll also guide you as much as possible whilst skilling you up, to take your from Learner to Earner,” a passionate Rachel explained. Last year, the charity engaged with 12,000 young people throughout England and Wales, with that number expecting to rise to 15,000 for this academic year.
Through a collection of 120 state schools and colleges – including online sessions – students are being sufficiently prepared for taking the gigantic leap away from mainstream education. The starting age of 14 is seen as the ideal moment to expose children to the working world. Of course, they’ll remain in education until the age of 18, but Working Options allows four years of growth and understanding to settle in. Effectively, these pupils will be taken on a four-year journey that should culminate in full-time employment.
We're working with @HallmarkFDN & @ConnollyKMCF to highlight to students how rewarding a career in the social care sector is. We're now planning a conference, so watch this space… Thank you also to all our Vols who have spoken to schools @skillsforcare #CelebratingSocialCare pic.twitter.com/6FMHJoonmI
— Working Options in Education (@workingoptions) April 13, 2022
The charity is already seeing success stories come to fruition, with a particular student not only excelling, but giving back to the cause too. “Bijon is one of our best case studies as he set up a business at the end of 2019, and one of our trustees mentored and supported him,” Rachel exclaims. After encouraging words and guidance, Bijon’s company was so successful that he was after an intern – and he knew just where to look.
“Bijon is now giving back. He has employed someone from the Working Options programme and he will assist with his development,” explained Rachel. These are the sort of stories that Working Options would have been hoping to achieve upon inception. Of course, the future of these children is completely reliant on volunteers, who selflessly give their time to educate and help form the next batch of working professionals.
Ranging from those who sit on the advisory board to delivering the Masterclasses, the charity is heavily reliant on those who believe in their vision; those who want a better tomorrow for the next generation and to believe in socially diverse talent. In total, there are nearly 450 volunteers who help deliver the programme. They inspire and motivate children to choose a career path that interests them, instead of forcing them down a linear avenue. The charity “doesn’t receive funding from the government or councils,” and if they want to continue to offer their services free of charge, they must raise funds “via traditional fundraising schemes.”
If you’ve progressed past the educational system, you’ll be fundamentally aware of the struggles young people face breaking into the workforce. Opportunities – especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds – are becoming increasingly difficult to find. If you run a business, or you have been generally successful during your working life, consider volunteering and speaking to the students of Working Options. The next generation need inspiration, and you could be the person to do just that. If you’re interested in volunteering, or supporting the charity, you can find more information here.