A few months ago the Mayor’s Fund for London asked me to participate in their ‘EPIC’ programme, run with Serious about Youth (SAY).
‘EPIC’ stands for Employment Preparation Intensive Course. It is a two week course held at the Stephen Lawrence Centre in Deptford, south London, for 16-25 year olds who have left school or college, graduated or been out of work for a while.
The course comprises group activities where the young people work on their employability skills, such as teamwork, communication and motivation. Every young person leaves with a strong CV, an understanding of application forms and cover letters, as well as plenty of interview practice.
They like to have employers involved throughout the programme; they believe this has a positive impact on the young people, bringing with them real life stories, experiences and expertise.
In the last couple of weeks I’ve taken part in two sessions: an employers’ sector talk, and on the panel of their ‘Dragon’s Den’ exercise.
Employers’ sector talk
I was from one of four companies presenting. The others were representatives from Crossrail, Network Rail, and the Home Office. I talked to the group about what a career in construction looks like, and the diverse roles within the industry. I also told them what we look for in an individual, and what we expect from our employees.
I arrived early enough on the day to watch their mock interviews. Some members of the group played ‘the employer’ and others had to be the interviewee. They all offered feedback afterwards. This was the first week of the programme: nerves and lack of confidence were evident. One group member had recently graduated in civil engineering. He was very quietly spoken and lacked confidence in his interview. However, feedback from his peers in the group was supportive and positive with pointers on what he could do differently.
My talk after the mock interviews was very well received. A number of the young people were interested in a career in construction already, and others became interested when we talked about career progression. One girl asked me whether she could do the role as well as a man! We conducted a Q&A session afterwards. I was very impressed with the thought that went into the questions posed.
It was a very engaging session. I came away from the day with a very different perspective on these young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs).
My second visit was as one of the ‘dragons’ on a panel. I sat on the panel alongside Anna and Kevin from the Home Office and Kate from Metro Bank. Each group was given a day and a half to prepare an investment opportunity. They had to come up with a USP (unique selling point), company vision, values and mission statement. They had to take into consideration the target market, as well as advertising and marketing, and tell us what they could do with £50K. Everyone in the group had to speak during the presentation.
Four groups presented. We had:
- Optical Vision – a mini portable wireless projector
- Lisztomania – a music sharing app
- Healthy Hub – healthy fast food
- Autoinfinity – a cleaning, accident repair and customising car company with an app to book in and check progress.
All the ideas were excellent and the presentations were well put together, although some struggled a bit with nerves and did not project to the panel.
The quiet graduate I mentioned above was on the Autoinfinity team. I was amazed by his progress in only a week. His presentation was clear and confident with great eye contact with the panel. I was so pleased to see him blossom in such a short space of time. On the basis of this and the fact we loved the pitch, presentation and idea, we all decided to make them the winners.
A pleasure to work with
I really enjoyed being a part of the EPIC project and getting to know the individuals. SAY director Rommell Wallace (pictured introducing the ‘Dragons’ Den’ exercise) really impressed me with his focus and drive on behalf of the young people.
We have a pre-conceived idea of today’s youth who have finishing their education and are looking for work. They do listen and they do take on feedback and work with it. They have really good, new ideas and are a pleasure to work with. I am looking forward to returning to support the next intake of this excellent project.
There is more information about the Mayor’s Fund for London on their website.
Read more about VGC’s work to support people into careers in construction.