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How work project helped make dreams come true

Highly prized placements offer teenagers a glimpse into world of employment at cream of county's firms

Victoria Hewat and Sophie Simpson
Victoria Hewat and Sophie Simpson

Around 50 teenagers from across Cumbria have entered the world of work thanks to an innovative scheme.

Dream Placement saw 200 youngsters apply to work with the county's top 50 companies and organisations to learn about leadership.

Organised by the Centre for Leadership Performance, Dream Placement is now in its fifth year and matches the young people with suitable businesses by selection days and presentations.

It aims to attract and retain young talent and show teenagers the career opportunities available.

The young people spent their half term at their placements.

Sharon Nixon, project manager at the Centre for Leadership Performance, said: "I love being part of Dream Placement and seeing how the students benefit from all the time and effort that the participating companies put in to making the placement week so great.

"Some of the experiences that the students have had this week have been truly superb and all of them now have a much better understanding of the world of work, leadership and the opportunities available to them here in Cumbria."

Victoria Hewat, of Nelson Thomlinson School in Wigton and Sophie Simpson, of Trinity School in Carlisle, spent the week with our publisher, CN Group.

Victoria spent her placement with the audience team and Sophie spent her placement with the editorial team. They were asked to investigate how to engage 18 to 24-year-olds.

Victoria said: "It's been absolutely fantastic. I really appreciated the time that each department gave to me to explain what they did and how they contributed to the work of CN.

"The project I was given enabled me to work my way through the week with an end focus, and to look at the company in light of this statement.

"I really felt as if I was contributing to the company for the week which was nice."

Kerry Sessford co-ordinated the Dream Placement. She said: "They compiled a presentation and we invited the people who had been involved at CN to be in the audience. The feedback was excellent and the girls should be very proud of themselves.

"They presented a professional, informative and very well thought out presentation."

Abi Pickering, of Cockermouth School, and Connor Nuttall, of Millom School, were tasked with a real-life engineering project as part of their Dream Placement at James Fisher Nuclear's Egremont site.

The budding engineers were given the challenge of developing a solution to remove a set of large steel deflector plates from inside a storage silo, with limited access and a host of other technical challenges.

Abi said: "This was a good challenge for us. Engineering is a possible future option for me so it was really useful to see what happens in a real-life engineering project."

Ben Pekarek, engineering manager for JFN, said: "The task was based on a project successfully delivered by JFN, so it was great to see that Abi and Connor developed a very similar engineering solution to the one we actually deployed on site for our client. Dream Placement has proved itself as a valuable learning experience for the students."

Abi Pickering and Connor Nuttall
Abi Pickering and Connor Nuttall

Rachel Cornthwaite, 17, a student at Ulverston Victoria Sixth Form, worked at Collaborate Telemarketing in Windermere.

She said: "Having never worked in an office environment before, I have been able to develop lots of new skills and the whole experience has been really enjoyable."

Sue Howorth, Collaborate managing director, said: "I think the scheme is such a great idea as it gives college students that first taste of what it's like to go into the workplace and helps them to make informed decisions about the kind of career they want to pursue."

Amelia Harrison, from Nelson Thomlinson, and Daniel Dalton, from Trinity School, spent their week at Story Homes.

Daniel Dalton said: "Taking on Dream Placement has really helped me to build up my confidence.

"Working with numerous groups of people within the business and presenting our findings to senior employees has made me feel more self-assured and confident in my abilities.

"Because we've been so proactive throughout the week and have gained hands-on experience, it's certainly made us think about all the different career options available to us."

Ian Storey, managing director for Story Homes in Cumbria and South Scotland, said: "Daniel and Amelia have certainly embraced the mission that they were tasked with and have shown a great amount of interest and enthusiasm.

"The two students were extremely proactive in their approach to the mission and, as a team, we were thoroughly impressed with the way in which Daniel and Amelia presented their findings at the end of the week. We hope they enjoyed their placement with Story Homes and wish them all the best for their future endeavours."

Wood hosted Alex Messenger and Joseph Moore, sixth form students from St Benedict's High School in Whitehaven.

Operations manager Mark Ritchie said: "They had a busy week getting experiences from our engineering and project management capability at Westlakes, as well as a two-day visit to Birchwood in Cheshire where they interviewed two directors and had an extensive tour of workshops, materials laboratories and remotely operated vehicle capabilities.

"Wood is delighted to support Dream Placement because it gives us a chance to connect with the young people of the county and show them how exciting and challenging working life can be."

Wood's Mark Ritchie with Alex Messenger and Joseph Moore
Wood's Mark Ritchie with Alex Messenger and Joseph Moore

At the National Nuclear Laboratory, Abbie McCracken, 17, and Sally Marshall, 16, spent time at its sites across Cumbria and the North West.

Sally, who attends William Howard School, Brampton, is interested in a science or engineering-based career, said she applied on a whim for the scheme.

She said: "I was surprised to see companies like NNL involved and I didn't realise just how big this industry was in our area, and how many local people are involved.

Abbie, who attends Cockermouth School and has been interested in a career in the law, said: "I have been unsure about exactly what kind of job or role I wanted so this is a great opportunity to explore that."

Ten sixth formers have been working with the NHS at trusts across Cumbria, including the North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust and the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

They spent the week with a range of clinical services and different managers to find out more about what it takes to make it in their chosen career.

The students' chosen careers include general practice, dentistry, mental health nursing, surgery and orthopaedics as well as support roles such as project management.

Jasmine Metherell, 17, of Trinity School, hopes to study medicine at university and go on to train as a child and adolescent mental health services psychiatrist: "It's been great to talk to lots of people from different parts of the NHS and I've found out all sorts that I didn't know.

"It has also been helpful to learn more about the different training routes into health careers. I think this placement will help to give us the edge when we're applying to study – no other work placements give you the chance to talk to so many senior leaders."

Ben Brock and Katie St Barbe, Year 12 students at West Lakes Academy in Egremont, were at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

They talked with former Dream Placement students who now work at the NDA and also heard from inspirational leaders from the community including Copeland mayor Mike Starkie and Shelley Hewitson, of Copeland Citizens Advice Bureau.

Ben and Katie were given a tour of the Sellafield site where they were taken to the Thorp viewing gallery.

Ben, who is hoping to eventually study materials science at university, said: "We've been given a really rounded insight into the work that the NDA does and some of it I expected, but I didn't realise the diversity of some of the work that goes into planning and looking after so many nuclear sites across the UK.

"We've taken advantage of this week and learnt as much as we can from as many different managers; from their knowledge and expertise to their approach to management."

Katie, who would like to work in policing, said: "I've learnt so many transferable skills from this week – even the simple stuff like presenting myself in meetings and confidence-building experiences.

"Having the opportunity to talk to so many different managers and experts has helped me gain lots of different perspectives that will stay with me when I start my own career."

At the end of the week, the students were tasked with preparing and delivering a presentation to managers on the theme of leadership, taking into account everything they had experienced and picked up during the week.

They were joined by Dream Placement students from Sellafield who also gave presentations.

Tara Moore, learning and development advisor at the NDA, said: "It's so important for us to promote careers in the industry to young people and helping them to get an idea of our organisation under the banner of leadership, is a positive thing for everyone involved."

Ben Brock and Katie St Barbe
Ben Brock and Katie St Barbe

Other companies and organisations that took part in Dream Placement were Westlakes Engineering, Cyclife, Bendalls, GSK, Cumbria County Council, Balfour Beatty, Costain, Amcor, Story Homes, Sellafield, Doosan Babcock, Sealy, DRS, NuGen, Mott MacDonald and NSG.

Read the article at

In Cumbria, February 21, 2018

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