Employable Me! Sixth formers from across the East Midlands come together to put their skills to the test

DANCOP (Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Collaborative Outreach Programme) welcomed sixth formers to test their skills and learn about employability as part of a mock assessment centre.

Learners from Nottingham Academy, Friesland School and Bluecoat Beechdale Academy visited the University of Derby to experience this vital part of many application processes, allowing them to recognise their skills and use them to do everything from building a tower from spaghetti and marshmallows to programming miniature robots. Learners worked in 20 minute bursts, working in teams to get as many points as possible. There were no jobs at the end of the assessment centre but there were exciting prizes and the pride of victory to play for!

Rotating around 4 stations, learners tackled some of the key employability skills that they need to harness to be successful in applications for university, higher level apprenticeships or future jobs.

To develop their digital skills they grappled with Ozobots, tiny programmable robots who respond to different visual stimuli to find their way home. Learners had to work together to identify how the robots work and “think”, and create a map that would programme the robots to work their way around a maze to get from one point to another.

From healthcare to computer games programming, problem solving is a key skill used in and requested by many careers and employers. To showcase their abilities, we asked the teams to tackle moving “toxic waste” from one safe zone to another – without using their hands and with only half of the group able to speak. The other half had to use a variety of everyday objects to fashion pulley systems, handles and levers so they could safely transport the waste from one end of the room together, under the careful instruction of their peers.

A further skill highlighted by employers and universities as key is persuasion – being able to influence others, whether that’s to sell them a product, convince them of your point of view or change their minds, is vital in the world of work and higher education. We challenged our learners to develop their persuasive skills by giving them minutes to pull together a dynamic and engaging pitch for an everyday object, with the only limit their imagination. They then presented to a panel of staff, thinking about their item’s unique selling point and showcasing an engaging poster. Points were awarded for the most exciting and interesting ideas and most innovative pitch.

Finally we tested the young people’s teamworking abilities in a challenging competition to build the tallest tower using spaghetti and marshmallows – with extra points available for aesthetic value and structural integrity.

In between each activity, learners were asked to record their reflections about how they could use their skills, how they might improve them and what careers and courses they might be needed in. This gave the young people an opportunity to consider the skills they already had and how they can be evidenced, as well as encouraging them to think about how they can showcase them as needed in the future.

Learners reflected that they were confident their skills will support them to succeed, with a staff member commenting “it was great to get something like this so early on in sixth form”.

Employable Me! allowed our learners to consider how they fit into their own future plans – where their skills lie, where they can improve and how they can harness their abilities to impress in a job or university interview. Although there wasn’t a job waiting at the end of the DANCOP assessment centre, it provided learners with the opportunity to recognise their skills, identify where they might be useful and how they can show them to future employers and higher education providers.