Partnership prepares pupils for work

by Mark Burgess -

An innovative approach to the transition between the world of work and school life has been introduced at Sandwick Junior High School. Under the banner of Developing the Young Workforce (DYW), the school has formed a partnership with Highlands and Islands Airport Ltd (HIAL), who own and operate Sumburgh Airport. Through this link, pupils are gaining work-related skills and experience in a tangible and practical manner. Sandwick was the first school in Shetland to sign up for a partnership of this kind.

Sumburgh Airport is a significant local employer with the airport and ancillary services providing around 250 jobs. The DYW partnership puts the airport in context as an employer and as a community asset in the South Mainland and has also created an impressive avenue for the airport to give something back to the community.

Sandwick JHS has an aspiration that all leaving S4 pupils will do so with a four-part practical skill-set to take onwards into study or working life. These four cornerstones are health and safety training, first aid training, an up-to-date CV and experience of an interview process.

Health and safety training is provided at the school by the Shetland Islands Council, before pupils do their work experience, as is the case throughout Shetland. The remaining three are all now delivered through the DYW partnership.

First aid training is provided by qualified Sumburgh Airport staff. This covers the use of defibrillators, how to deal with bleeding and basic CPR – all potentially life-saving skills. The school has also coordinated with the airport to create mock jobs, which pupils can apply for and go through the whole employment process, from crafting a proper CV to undergoing an interview with staff from airport-based companies. This take pupils well outside of the sphere of regular classroom learning and the interviewers even provide written feedback to pupils. The involvement of genuine potential employers in honing these highly beneficial work-related skills is perhaps not something that can be readily measured, but the benefits are apparent.

This is not a one-way street though, as the pupils have been working with airport staff towards providing an “autism-friendly visual guide” for the airport.

A next step is to have teachers take advantage of the resources that the DYW partnership with the airport can offer in regular classroom lessons and activities. Subjects like chemistry, geography or physics could include materials that are based on scenarios at, or relating to, the airport.

Sandwick JHS staff member Michael Manson helped coordinate the partnership, together with the airport’s Assistant Services Manager, Susan Myles. He says: “Teachers can make those connections between real-life examples and teaching materials. Sumburgh gives us a fantastic opportunity to do that. “

Michael is aware that the DYW partnership with HIAL generated a lot of interest from other schools and will perhaps encourage them to move towards forging their own partnerships.

“It’s a really positive relationship and something you can develop over time,” he says. “It’s really beneficial to the pupils and a good opportunity for them, while the airport has found their input to be valuable as well."

We are looking at possibilities for work experience, and, ultimately, the end goal would be that some of the pupils may go on to work at the airport or consider it strongly among their options.

The diversity of different working roles that are present at the airport allows a broad range of interests from pupils, or potential employees. With everything in place from engineering, catering, customer service, fire service, security and various forms of administrative or manual handling jobs there really is a lot to choose from and learn about.

A prominent industry adviser has suggested in recent years that the 11-year old of today may live to 120 and have 40 jobs in a lifetime. While the life expectancy element of that may remain to be seen, there is little doubt that being able to offer school pupils a range of working experiences, skills and connections to their wider community will stand them in good stead throughout their adult lives and the DYW programme at Sandwick Junior High School starts them on that journey, via the airport.

Posted in: News

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