Volunteers who supported Chelsea Academy students over the past three years.

Chelsea Academy is a Mainstream Academy school in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Over half of their students are eligible for Pupil Premium (52%) versus the London average of 38% (for Mainstream Academies).

Over the last three years Chelsea Academy was provided with over 200 work experience opportunities for their students. Numerous volunteers visited the school to provide students with talks, mock interviews and networking sessions. Lucy McNally, the Deputy Head of Sixth Form said:

Our experience has been incredible. It has given us something that we absolutely didn’t have before which is access to very high-quality work experience placements for students that really deserve them but couldn’t access them before. It takes a huge amount of workload away from the school which is very useful because due to the budget cuts schools have been facing there is less capacity for things like work experience, however there is now a requirement for having work experience when going to further education. Access Aspiration has a massive impact on our students lives.

Employers consistently tell us that we are not preparing young people effectively for the world of work. It is very difficult, I would even say impossible, to teach young people what it feels like to be in work and give them a real experience of what is required from them without physically placing them in the world of work. It’s the best way for them to learn. We believe all students should have meaningful work experience during sixth form. It’s in the best interest of employers to provide work experience to young people. Their applicants of the future will be better informed, have work skills, and will be much better prepared for the workplace.

Sometimes people don’t really recognise the fact that they got to where they are thanks to an opportunity given by someone they know. They would say “I got here through hard work and determination and I’m frustrated that other young people don’t work hard” but I see it from the other side. I see how hard the students work and how many times they get knocked back because they don’t know the right person.

Even though we do a huge amount of work with career provision for all of Y10 and all of Y12, our students still have a way to go in understanding what the growth industries are in London. For example, with creative careers it’s been such a growth industry in London and that something that students might know about, but parents definitely don’t. Some of our students, particularly if they are first or second migrant generation struggle to convince their parents that it is a worthwhile aim for them to do anything besides being a doctor or a lawyer. The more we can get the message across to them, particularly about the different technological advancements that are happening and the growth industries that they may not be aware of, then the more that those opportunities open up to the young people who are definitely talented enough and wonderful enough but who may have not considered that career area before due to either lack of knowledge about the labour market or due to their parents stereotypes of those types of careers.

I would like to ask the employers: when you finished sixth form and did your A-Levels how did you get your opportunity in the world of work? Maybe you were lucky enough to know somebody who gave you a chance. London has a huge amount of young people with massive potential and great ability who don’t have that person in their life that can open the door for them. If you are able to offer that to a deserving young person, then not only does it benefit the young person, but it will also benefit your staff team and your company. Doing something positive for future generations brings its own rewards.


There are so many…

Saz was lucky enough to get two work placements and an insight day. She had a really difficult life but is a really bright girl with a lot of potential. She visited the Southbank Centre and went on two placements after, one in PR at Halpern where she was able to go to London Fashion Week as part of her work experience. This had a massive impact on her, it was all she could talk about for a long time! Her other work experience took place at Donmar Warehouse, backstage doing set design, which was an area of work that she didn’t even consider despite her talent for creative and artistic things. That was absolutely life changing for her, she developed contacts that she still uses now, and it really changed the course of her future and that one really sticks with me. She left two years ago, she is in University now doing a creative course.

Abdu had an experience with HBOS at Halifax Bank and an insight with BrightTALK where he built his CV and had a mock interview. I know that these were opportunities that he would never come across through his family network.

Abdalla is one of our most wonderful students, but again, a real lack of opportunities – he is a first-generation immigrant and he went to the Bank of England. I am currently writing his UCAS reference because he wants to do Finance in University – being able to include that in his application has been brilliant and will make all the difference.

We had a student who suffered from quite severe anxiety, Aniqa – she went to Marie Claire and it changed the course of her future and she went on to do fashion at University.

Farah went to the MET Police and she is applying to do psychology in University, but she is particularly interested in criminology and she was able to write all about that experience in her personal statement and I could mention it in her reference as well and hope it’s going to be very helpful to her.

Folarin had two experiences, first an insight and then a work placement at the Bank of England. He went on to a Russel Group University and I’m sure that that would have had a big impact on his application.

I just done Georgia’s UCAS reference – she wants to be a midwife and she had a placement with Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust in Charring Cross Hospital. That made all the difference to her and reinforced her career ambition.

Jordan left last year and hasn’t quite achieved the grades that he was hoping for, but because of his insight at the Bank of England he was inspired to gain more experience, take a gap year and  improve his results. He is now applying to University having had a year of work experience which he really enjoyed.

Law is probably the most popular area of interest for our young people. Getting good quality law work experience is very difficult for them. Freshfields and Brick Court Chambers – the opportunities these companies have given really meant a lot.

A lot of our students really struggle to get medical work experience, even if they are A-grade potential scientists and medics. The BARTS Cancer Research institute and the Royal Surrey Hospital insights have really been impactful to our school.

One of my students went to BARTS Cancer institute because she wanted to do research. That experience has actually made her realise that it’s not the path for her. It was the nature of the job, working all day in a laboratory and paying lots of attention to detail, being patient, that made her realise it’s not the right fit. It may have been something her parents wanted her to do, and she realised that she wouldn’t be able to stick with it, so she broadened out her ambitions in the field of healthcare and now she is doing a University course in Global Health. She found BARTS placement valuable, she said it became a reason for her to choose her path – that’s also great!