Raising career aspirations among young women at Bishop Young Academy

13th August 2022 - Sharon Rugg

The Programme:

The Effective Transitions Fund launched in West Yorkshire in November 2021, funded by a project of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, the Careers and Enterprise Company, and JP Morgan. 180 young women were selected from 8 schools across the region to take part in the programme. Over two years they will be supported by IVE to increase their access to future employment opportunities and raise their aspirations.

 

What did we do? 

IVE launched the ETF programme at Bishop Young Academy in February 2022. 20 female students at Bishop Young Academy, Seacroft, Leeds, were chosen for the programme by the school’s Achievement Director, Keith Williams. IVE Cultural Education Manager for West Yorkshire, Lisa Turney, joined the school as facilitator.

 

Year One of the programme focused on creating space for pupils to explore, to be curious, and learn new things about themselves and careers. The programme of inspirational interventions is built around connecting young people with inspiring employers, developing creative and collaborative critical thinking & problem solving skills, and responding to real-world work challenges -all with the aim of showing pupils that exciting job opportunities and career paths are possible for them.

 

Programme Launch:

IVE launched the Effective Transitions programme with an insight into jobs of the future. Through a series of interactive activities, IVE facilitators engaged pupils in a workshop exploring what it means to work in the world now.

 

The session focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers, and careers in the growing Green sector. These careers were highlighted as the jobs of the future: jobs in sectors that are predicted strong growth and are currently underrepresented by women. These jobs may sound intimidating and strange, but underpinning all of them is a need for a strong set of transferrable skills, good problem-solving skills and ability to adapt quickly in rapidly changing environments.

Pupils also explored their own understanding of the world of work, particularly stereotypes around genders and professions that prevent so many women from pursuing careers in STEM.

 

Applied Creativity Lab:

 

“…every time I walked into the room there was a sense of purpose, they were always engaged … the development of the work was genuinely theirs and not shaped by adults – but developed with the process of questioning.” (Bishop Young Teacher)

 

IVE’s Applied Creativity Labs (ACLs) aim to give children and young people the creative behaviours and thinking skills they need to develop innovative solutions to real world challenges, such as air pollution, food sustainability and other climate and social issues.

IVE chose to begin the ETF programme with an Applied Creativity Lab because of the proven impacts on young people’s self-confidence, skills development and creativity. By applying creativity to real-world challenges, learning becomes ‘real’ and young people take an active part in creating their own futures. Applied Creativity Labs help young people think divergently, develop problem-solving skills, think freely and more creatively, develop their resilience, confidence and independence, develop their teamwork, ability to innovate and their self-confidence and belief in their own abilities. ACLs also connect students with experts in a range of disciplines and sectors, engaging them with inspiring adults and potential role models.

 

“I feel like we’ve come up with an idea together that we never would have thought of – we were shown how to think a bit more creatively and

challenge ourselves.” (Student)

 

ETF pupils at Bishop Young Academy chose to develop ideas to reduce single-use plastics. The Lab began with an overview of the challenge of plastics. Carolyn Moss, Business Officer in the Waste Management department of Leeds City Council, delivered a presentation on the problem of single-use plastics, equipping pupils with the background knowledge to inform their solutions.

Over 7 workshop sessions, IVE facilitator Lisa Turney worked with pupils to develop their ideas through a process known as divergent and convergent thinking. Armed with knowledge from Carolyn, pupils worked in teams to think divergently, creating as many ideas as possible without limitation. They then thought convergently, applying real-life considerations to their many ideas in order to select a shortlist that is physically possible, but ambitious, imaginative and original.

 

“When we started, we didn’t know how to work together and we had to figure out how to do that. In the end, we have created this idea and we can’t

believe that we are standing here talking about it.” (Student)

 

 

The groups prepared to pitch their best, most original, applicable solutions to the challenge to a panel of industry experts, academics and entrepreneurs. The final presentation event took place at the school on 13th June 2022. Panelists included:

Every group delivered a high-quality presentation and received fantastic feedback from panelists on the originality, breadth and thoughtfulness of their ideas. Ideas ranged from publicity campaigns to new laws, apps and reverse vending machines.

 

Mentoring Sessions:

Interspersed with Applied Creativity Labs were three mentoring sessions. IVE invited female volunteers from a range of professions to speak with pupils. The young women at Bishop Young Academy were joined by Emma Morton, an NHS Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, and Kate Swan, a Graduate Environmental Consultant at Mott MacDonald. Both women are recent graduates.

In small groups, pupils and mentors talked about a range of subjects, including day-to-day working life, university experiences and career journeys. Mentors were briefed with conversation topics, but encouraged to follow the lead of the pupils and their curiosity. Questions were actively encouraged, and an emphasis placed on conversations, not presentations.

Mentoring sessions took place alongside ACL workshops to help pupils make the most of their experience. Mentors helped pupils to understand the value in the process they were undertaking, linking it with skills they used daily in their professional lives, such as team-work, project management and presenting. By emphasising the importance of these transferable skills, mentors created important connections between the ACL process and the world of work.

 

Employer Challenge Day with Arup:

 

“Chandan and the other colleagues were fantastic and gave our students a great opportunity to engage in learning and also to meet and

interact with those with the expertise.” (Bishop Young Academy)

 

IVE worked with Arup – a global built environment consultancy based in Leeds – to deliver an Employer Challenge Day at their head office on 20th June 2022. The Leeds Hospital Challenge gave the pupils an insight into engineering careers through a workshop exploring the challenges of designing a future-proof hospital.

Pupils were tasked with a real-world scenario faced by Arup’s team in helping design two new hospitals as part of the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust New Hospitals Programme. Members of the Trust and Arup’s project team also held a lunchtime Q&A session with the group, exploring future career routes into engineering.

 Their experience was covered in an article in the Health Estate Journal: https://www.healthestatejournal.com/story/38927/young-women-gain-valuable-insight-into-engineering-careers

 

What’s Next?

 IVE will continue working with Bishop Young Academy in the 2022-23 academic year, with the same group of pupils. Building on Year One, the programme will focus on helping the pupils use the skills and experiences they gained to inform their choices about post 16 destinations. In Year 11 they will meet major milestones, including making their Post-16 choices in December 2022. IVE will support them to make these decisions with confidence.

Year Two will focus on identifying and developing confidence and decision-making. This will enable students to recognize their own strengths, skills and passions, learn how to appreciate themselves, articulate their experiences and think positively about their own abilities whilst they identify the next steps towards careers they are interested in.

 

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