The first ever virtual Work-wise Foundation annual Summer Academy has been hailed a huge success by attendees and schools taking part in the event.
The 2020 Virtual Summer Academy, which took place from 3rd to 20th August, attracted students from 10 schools across the Sheffield City Region; with 35% boys and 65% girls attending from a mix of backgrounds including 37% from Black Minority and Ethnic (BME) communities and several Young People in Care.
Driven by local employers, Summer Academy is designed to provide young people with valuable experience in the world of work. The event helps to improve attendee’s employment and education prospects and supports schools who see an opportunity for students who would benefit from an introduction to the world of work outside the normal school environment.
The annual workshop, which usually sees pupils meet with employers to gain an insight into working in different industries across the region, had to be completely re-planned due to restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead the sessions were held over Zoom’s online meeting software, with representatives from local companies hosting workshops that included virtual tours, guest presenters introducing different aspects of how a business operates and a chance to ‘Walk in my Shoes’ with apprentices.
John Barber, CEO of Work-wise Foundation, said: “Normally the Summer Academy runs during August face to face in employer and industry based premises. Of course this can’t happen at the moment, so we made the experience virtual for those young people keen enough and willing to give up some of their summer holidays to learn about careers, gain invaluable employability skills and build their confidence and CV’s.”
Schools taking part in this year’s event includes Wales High School, Clifton Academy, Oakwood High School, Brinsworth Academy, Rotherham College, Rawmarsh Community School, Wickersley School, King Edward 7th School and Ridgewood School, plus Looked after Children in Rotherham.
Rachel Mullins Careers & Post-16 Transition Manager at Rawmarsh and Wickersley Schools in Rotherham, comments: “The 2020 virtual Summer Academy has been brilliant. All our pupils received such a positive experience given the current circumstances, which is a huge achievement. We can’t thank the team at work-wise enough for providing this opportunity, everyone involved should be really proud.”
Earlier this year, The work-wise Foundation was set to host the tenth anniversary of Get up to Speed with STEM, Yorkshire’s largest annual employer- inspired science, technology, engineering, manufacturing and construction careers event aimed at young people. Figures show that the 2020 event was set to be the biggest yet, however it was cancelled at short notice due to restrictions on large gatherings placed during the coronavirus lockdown.
John Barber adds: “Unfortunately, in March we had to cancel Get up to Speed with STEM, which over 4,000 young people and 110 business exhibitors were due to attend. These children missed out on a great opportunity to connect with local businesses so we feel it is even more vital that we continue to find a way to provide real life experiences of the world of work to as many young people as we can. We are thrilled that virtual Summer Academy has been so successful, and to continue the momentum we plan to run more sessions for schools in the coming weeks and months.”
The Work-wise Foundation was founded in 2011 as an employer-led initiative for engineering, manufacturing and other related sectors. The organisation supports the development of young people, so they have the knowledge, skills, aptitude and opportunities for employment within the Sheffield City Region.
Through the Foundation which became a registered charity in 2014, the private sector is practically and strategically taking the lead in helping to prepare young people for employment and careers. To achieve this, Work-wise helps employers to establish links with young people, develop strategies and programmes and delivers training and practical guidance to make it happen.
The idea for Work-wise came during the 2008 recession when founders John Barber, Janice Richardson and Jackie Freeborn got together with local employers and created a series of work-related programmes.
Now, annually the work-wise team delivers more than 10,000 work-related experiences for young people in the Sheffield City Region through a wide range of practical hands on interventions. These include Get up to Speed with STEM, the Summer Academy, What Employers Want and STEMFest programmes, to name just a few.