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Camden celebrates work experience initiative

Camden businesses, local schools, Camden Council and Inspire! recently celebrated the success of a joint initiative that is giving the borough’s young people their first real taste of the workplace.

At a reception, hosted at the Grange Holborn Hotel, guests heard how the initiative between Camden Council, the Camden Business Board and Inspire! has delivered 500 work placements and a range of work-related learning opportunities for students at four local secondary schools and Westminster Kingsway. The programme is funded through Camden Council’s CPEE (Camden Partnership for Educational Excellence) initiative.

Cllr Angela Mason explained how the initiative came out of a review of education undertaken by the council. “One of the key challenges was that there weren’t enough clear pathways between the world of school and the world of work,” she said. “Inspire! absolutely hit the spot, otherwise hundreds of students would be ringing employers for work placements and schools would have a lot more admin to do.”

Inspire!’s role has been to engage employers, source and match students with placements. They handle all the paper work, including risk assessments/health and safety checks, work with employers to create job descriptions for the students, brief students and employers before the placements take place, monitor their progress and carry out follow-up evaluations.

Cllr Nasim (Nash) Ali told guests that the borough’s 14-19 strategy would ensure that “every young has person has the best opportunity in life. Our aim is that no-one should be NEET (not in education, employment or training) by 2020. But we need to match the skills of young people in the market,” Cllr Ali added.

Alistair Subba Row, from Farebrother, who leads the Camden Business Board, reported on the magnificent response from Camden businesses. He encouraged other businesses to get involved saying: “It’s easy to do nothing but it’s just as easy to do something for the next generation. If everybody does their bit, we’ll go a long way to help inspire them as well as improving their future employment prospects.”

The final word went to Tony Matharu, Managing Director of Grange Hotels, who had laid on the reception on a ‘pro bono’ basis, but has also hosted work placements and apprenticeships. Mr Matharu highlighted how there were fewer barriers to entering the hospitality industry than other sectors and that “enthusiasm, commitment and passion for the job are key.” He cited how many of his senior managers had started as juniors and that, because of the shift patterns of work in this industry, many employees are drawn from the local community. He urged employers to do more to spread the word about work placements and apprenticeships both within their own organisations and their supplier chains.

Inspire! continues to place young people from Camden into work experience. The next groups are from Westminster Kingsway and undertake their placements from 28 April – 9 May. One group comprises Health & Social Care students; the other is taking a BTEC Business course.

Employers who are able to offer a work placement to a Camden student, or are interested in finding out more, can contact the Inspire! Employer Engagement team on 020 7275 6060.