From education to employment

FIRST Breakthrough has a vision to build a better future for young people in the North East

FIRST Breakthrough has a vision to build a better future for the North East: collaborating with like-minded people and organisations to help create brighter and better opportunities for its young people, developing a high-quality talent pool of skilled workers for businesses, and helping to create a better, stronger and more robust economy for everyone.

“We are delivering a match making service between education providers and businesses to provide meaningful industry placements for learners.” Says Charlotte Windebank, director of new initiative, FIRST Breakthrough,

“We’re ensuring that businesses get value from the placements and we’re saving time and money for providers who are already at capacity and finding it difficult to engage with the business community.”

This work starts from the ground up: Following 2011’s Wolf Report, it was recognised that there is a gap in skills, in particular technical skills, with the UK currently lagging behind its European counterparts in terms of productivity. The Plan was actioned to resolve this and determine how vocational education for 14 to 19-year-olds could be improved to aid successful progression into the labour market, higher level education and training routes. 

Following this, in September 2019 we will see the beginnings of reform for the UK education system. Pilots for a new technical qualification, the T Level, began in 2017-18, and the first pathways will launch September 2019 with 50 ‘providers’ (schools with 6th form, colleges and Academy Trusts) selected as the first to take part. With other education providers to follow, it is essential they ready themselves for these changes.

The T Levels will roll out across the UK in phases, with the first pathways comprising:

  • Digital
  • Construction
  • Education and Childcare

The new qualification will equip learners with the skills, knowledge and behaviours to get a head start in skilled employment. However, the most vital aspect of the qualification is the mandatory work placement, where they will gain first-hand experience of their specialism in an authentic setting.

The learners will have an in-depth experience, spending 300+ hours embedded in a business, learning the necessary on-the-jobs skills in a practical, meaningful and useful way. FIRST Breakthrough will be on-hand to lead North East education providers in finding perfectly matched placements for each learner.

In response to the pilot programme conducted by the Department for Education, learners reported that the most appealing aspect of the T Level was the work placement period and the opportunity to gain real-world experience of working life. 

As more technical pathways become available, including digital business services, finance and accounting and healthcare science – and with the programme firmly in place in all UK education providers by September 2023 – FIRST Breakthrough’s sector expertise in matching education providers and learners with businesses will become even more essential and in-demand.

In addition to these developments, Gatsby Career Benchmarks for good careers guidance in schools will now be compulsorily implemented, to ensure that educators provide absolute best practice when delivering careers education. The aim is to inspire learners towards further study and enable them to make informed decisions about their future and prepare themselves for skilled work. Opening learners’ eyes to careers they may not otherwise have considered is critical for social mobility.

With such big changes happening, FIRST Breakthrough will help smooth the transition. They are firmly in place to become the ‘go to service’ to deliver on both Gatsby Career Benchmark guided training and T Level work placement procurement.

They are the first point of call for businesses and education providers for up-to-the-minute news, advice and leadership, guiding the business and education fields with shining examples of best practice, meaning that work placements can be done in a way where everybody benefits.

The team at FIRST Breakthrough are sector experts with opinions and knowledge to share. They offer an informed voice, connect educators and businesses, and help build up the confidence of young people looking to improve their career opportunities. 

“FIRST have been brilliant to work with, providing support and advice where needed,” says Lisa Hoseason, Director of Study Programmes at Newcastle College,

“They’ve guided us in really engaging our learners and ensuring that the work we are doing is meaningful and valuable. Not only that, but they are so passionate about what they do and have really gone the extra mile for us! We look forward to continuing to work with them in the future”

“Working with FIRST we know that we can trust them to deliver brilliant matches,” comments Sophie Flanagan, of Beacon House Events,

“They recently helped us to recruit conference volunteers and the entire process was so reassuring: the students were passionate, knowledgeable and professional – and it’s an extremely useful service to have available for our fast paced and varied schedule of events. FIRST have the excellent contacts and the knowledge to make a great match.”

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