We spoke to Michelle Homer, Careers Lead at Hall Green School, to find out why she brings pupils to WorldSkills UK LIVE.
How did you find the event last year?
It was really good. The signage was very good and it was very interactive. When there’s a stand that’s got a bit more to offer – incentives, talking to them and freebies – there’s an attraction right away before the students know who they are. In an ideal world, I would love to bring the whole year group.
How well does the event fit in with your school’s careers provision?
The timing is really good because I do it with year 11. They have an assembly in October to say, “Right, you need to start thinking about what you are going to do when you leave us next year!” We don’t have a sixth form at this school, so it fulfils a lot of our requirements to expose them to HE, FE and apprenticeships, widening and exploring ideas, so it ticks a lot of boxes for us in terms of our benchmarks.
I target a group which is made up of pupils who receive free school meals for a raising aspirations activity, and also students who are underachieving, for a motivational angle. I also include anybody that I’m aware of who just doesn’t know what to do and really needs some ideas to move onto.
How do you feel those groups benefit?
I think in terms of free school meals – we’re looking at low-income families where there might be only one parent working or they’re on a very low income, I think it’s quite inspirational. You’ve got a lot of universities there. You’ve got a lot of people talking about HE apprenticeships.
What do you think are the key benefits to less motivated, underachieving students?
I think when they’re having a conversation with those people, things are more tangible. They think, “Yeah, I could do this.” I see that with my students, a lot of them say, “Yep, I realise now that I’m really interested in doing engineering.” It gives them some excitement and a bit of zest. Some of the careers they get a little taste in relates to their school work as well.
For students who know what they want to do, does the event help to confirm their career choice is right for them?
Yes, and I think having the right people on the day is important as well. Generally, exhibitors are really good and they seem used to this kind of thing. They need to keep people engaged otherwise pupils won’t ask any questions. We need those characters there that will engage with the young people.
Does the event change your students’ thoughts and attitudes about the future?
Yes, it’s made them think about something they never knew about before. It made them think about all the apprenticeships out there, and they probably didn’t realise there was so many.
Which activities proved particularly popular amongst your pupils?
I think some of the colleges had some good stands that did t-shirt printing or some sort of design. That was really popular. There’s normally theatrical makeup stands – everyone wants a scar on their face for the day. Year 11 have a lot of stress and a lot of pressure on them. Some of them do a full day where they are in at half-past eight and they are here until half four doing extra sessions. For a day like that, I think it’s got to be fun as well. It’s a bit different from going into the seminar or conference where they just sit and listen.
Did you use any of the lesson plans or the materials to prepare the pupils?
I use the maps so they could see the different areas, that was really good because it got them thinking a little bit before the day. There was an app as well that I told the students about.
How does WorldSkills UK LIVE compare to other careers and apprenticeship events?
Skills shows can offer so much more when you’ve got the climbing wall with the army, and the helicopter with the RAF. It just brings it more to life and we can cater for more pupils.
What advice would you give other schools that want to attend?
I would say that because of the size of it there is a lot of representation from a lot of different industries. So it’s really going to broaden your students’ career ideas. It will give something for all types of learners of all abilities as well.