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Students double up as staff at business-led school

Principal Sarah Pashley with five of the Student Employees, Abigail Fowler, Joely Rhodes, Jay Gordon, Ben Campbell-Wilson and Matthew Hunt.
Principal Sarah Pashley with five of the Student Employees, Abigail Fowler, Joely Rhodes, Jay Gordon, Ben Campbell-Wilson and Matthew Hunt

Students at a school backed by many of the leading employers in Hull and the Humber are doubling up as part-time members of staff in a pioneering scheme.

The sixth formers have become the first Student Employees at business-led Ron Dearing University Technical College (UTC), reflecting the school’s focus on preparing students fully for the world of work.

The scheme has begun with six 16 and 17-year-olds spending a few hours a week working side by side with teachers and support staff as IT Assistants, Library Assistants or Cleaners. It is set to grow, with five Literacy Assistants due to be appointed next month and more Student Employees to be taken on in September as a new group of sixth formers joins the school.

Ron Dearing UTC has been established to develop a new pipeline of tech-savvy and work-ready young people. The school is backed by Founding Partners the University of Hull; KCOM; RB; Siemens Gamesa; Smith & Nephew; and Spencer Group; as well as a host of other leading local employers.

The Student Employees typically work 2.5 hours per week. For example, the IT Assistants work for 30 minutes either before or after the normal school day – which is itself longer than at traditional schools – setting up and putting away laptops and other digital devices used by fellow students.

The Library Assistants support the school’s Librarian in managing the library resources, provide additional support for the development of students’ literacy skills, and help to staff out-of-hours events.

The Cleaners work under the direction of staff from Sewell Facilities Management, which has the contract to maintain and clean the school buildings.

The roles were created after the newly-opened school’s leadership team identified there was a need for more support in a few specific areas. As the school required just a few hours of additional part-time work, they felt it was an ideal opportunity for their own students.

Principal Sarah Pashley said: “We find it’s quite difficult for young people to get part-time jobs and we felt it made perfect sense where we have work for just a few hours a week to employ our students to do it.

“It helps to develop their work ethic and gives them employability skills. Because they don’t have to leave school, they are able to combine the work very well with their studies and, of course, it also means they have a small income, which is great for them.

“The students have had to go through a formal recruitment process, as they would for a job outside school. So that gives them valuable experience of what’s involved in applying for a job.

“Now they are learning on the job about working as part of a team and independently, time management and the various other requirements and expectations of the world of work.”

The Student Employees are paid £5 an hour, a little more than the National Minimum Wage of £4.20 for under 18s, via a bursary fund, meaning they can earn £50 a month during term time.

Student Joely Rhodes, 16, is working as a Library Assistant and has found the scheme has had an additional benefit – she has now gained a weekend job working for McDonald’s, helped by what she has learned by applying for and performing the duties of her school role.

She said: “I had applied for part-time jobs before but never got an interview. Applying for the Library Assistant job taught me what I needed to do and how best to present myself.

“So when I was interviewed for the McDonald’s job I was able to tell them about my work as a Library Assistant. I’m sure it really helped me to get the job.

“I don’t know of any other school or college doing this, but I think it’s really good idea. It’s definitely helped me and developed my confidence.”

Ron Dearing UTC opened last September and will grow to a capacity of 600 students, aged 14 to 19, by September 2020.