Pupils learn about world of work during careers week

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Campbeltown Grammar School’s senior students learned virtually all there is to know about Argyll’s employment opportunities during Scottish Careers Week.

Representatives from a wide range of the area’s employers took time out of their work schedules to share with the young people information about their businesses and sectors during an online careers event last Friday.

This is the first time the event has been held virtually; in previous years, employers visited pupils at the school but that isn’t possible at the moment, during the Covid pandemic.

In the morning, S4 pupils heard presentations from Stewart, Balfour and Sutherland Solicitors, Wyvex Media, Springbank Distillery, Argyll College UHI, William Duncan Accountants, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Police Scotland, Fyne Homes, Balfour Beatty and Alienergy, with representatives from the same companies, plus Midton Acrylics, due to speak to S5 and S6 students during the afternoon session.

Some speakers, including Wyvex Media director Keith McIntyre and Susan McFadyen, senior manager at William Duncan Accountants’ Campbeltown office, shared general information about working within their sectors, while Springbank Distillery personnel manager Jill Matthew and operations assistant Lea Watson spoke about the specific apprenticeships the distillery can offer students.

For the pupils with a desire to work within the emergency services, PC Karen Cairns and firefighter Christopher Crawford spoke in detail about the recruitment processes involved with joining their respective sectors.

For those keen to further their education before finding employment, Dhonna McCallum from Argyll College UHI spoke about the huge variety of courses on offer locally, including childcare, health and social care, social sciences, agriculture, horticulture, engineering, construction, criminology, business management, events management, computing and theology.

Any students unsure of which career path to take were bound to have been inspired by the testimonies of Fyne Homes housing admin officer Megan Morrison and Marshall McKenzie, project engineer at Balfour Beatty, who spoke about their personal routes into employment as well as their employers generally.

Unfortunately, a technical hitch disrupted the afternoon session, cutting short ALIenergy deputy manager Rachel McNicol’s presentation and preventing the representatives from Midton Acrylics and Stewart, Balfour and Sutherland from being able to speak.

Thankfully, their presentations were shared with the students earlier this week.

‘The pandemic has been particularly tough on young people, especially those at the senior phase of school,’ said Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) school coordinator Suzanne Thomson, who organised the event.

‘Physical work experience has been impossible but, thankfully, technology has allowed us all to stay in touch, and there have been numerous virtual work experiences on offer.

‘Although young people weren’t able to interact with employers in the usual careers fayre fashion, last week’s virtual careers event brought the employers to the students.’

Ms Thomson explained that DYW was a Scottish Government initiative that was established in 2014 with the goal of cutting youth unemployment by 40 per cent by 2021.

‘Although this target was achieved, the unprecedented effects of Covid-19 have seen a rise in youth unemployment and business retention,’ she said.

DYW has 28 regional groups including DYW Argyll, which has four school co-ordinators covering the local authority area; Ms Thomson is responsible for Campbeltown, Islay and Tarbert.

‘Our role is to work with secondary schools, creating partnerships with local employers to create opportunities for young people by giving them the knowledge, skills and invaluable experience needed in preparation for the world of work,’ said Ms Thomson.

‘DYW offers support to schools, employers and carers as well young people but ultimately our goal is to ensure that “no child is left behind” regardless of any obstacles or learning difficulties they may be facing.

‘By investing in our young people, we are investing in the future of our society; by gaining meaningful employment, young workers improve the economy and population retention is increased.’