From education to employment

London South East Colleges students are back on-track with the help of Dame Kelly Holmes Trust

After the resounding success of London South East Colleges’ first Getting Back On Track Programme (in partnership with the Mayor of London and the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust), this week has seen the launch of Cohort #2 with students eager to kick-start their careers and progress into further study or on to an apprenticeship.

Earlier in the year, the pilot programme attracted a large number of young people in need of re-engagement, career advice, direction and inspiration. Out of these, many are now enrolled back into full-time further education courses or starting work on apprenticeship programmes.

The six-week employability and personal progression programme aims to inspire students who have dropped out of college, or who may have ‘missed the boat’ after leaving school last year, to find a suitable career pathway in a subject or vocation that interests them. Instilling confidence and self-belief, resilience and awareness are critical to the success of the project and the participants who form its second cohort.

During the first three-days of motivational sessions, former UK athletes, and Dame Kelly Holmes Trust Mentors, Claire Bennett (individual and team gold and bronze medal winner at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and England fencing team captain), Suzanne Miller (a champion badminton superstar achieving a haul of national and international accolades), and Hannah Beharry (motivational speaker, athlete mentor, personal trainer and first female European boxing champion) kicked-off the programme with a range of activities to test the students’ resolve in problem solving, teamwork, communications and decision-making.

On day two, former England fencing captain, Claire Bennet led the students in a range of fun and stimulating physical exercises followed by group activities designed to develop problem-solving skills, confidence and teamwork.

Claire told the students:“My road to sporting success didn’t actually start well. I was bullied at school and later in my fencing career I just missed out on qualifying for the London 2012 Olympic Games. It was devastating, but I am proud of what I have achieved in trying to get to the top of my sport. There is still much to be proud of. I Captained the England team to a gold medal at the Commonwealth Fencing Games and it is something that I will never forget. I have no regrets because I gave it everything I had and that gave me the freedom to move on in my life beyond sport. Since then, I met my husband, had my first child, I commentate on Eurosport and work in people development, supporting and developing others to achieve their potential.

“The advice I would give you all is to find out what you are good at, what your passion is, and then to go for it with all your heart. You never know what is around the corner. It’s important to go for your goals and grab every opportunity that comes your way. You have the ability to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve, be brave and go for it.”

Former level 2 child care student Florence Carruel, 17, from Chislehurst has already found employment with only one week of the course gone by securing a nursery care assistant apprenticeship beginning next week. She said: “I’ve loved being here and hearing all the personal stories and good advice by the athletes. I wish I could have done the whole course to be honest but when you get an opportunity like this, you have to go with it. I know it will be hard work and I’ll have to put in the hours too. I didn’t like school and wasn’t a big fan of full-time education either. An apprenticeship means learning on the job and earning a wage. I’m really looking forward to getting started.”

Alexandra Davidson, 19 from Beckenham is a successful member of the programme’s first cohort and following completion of the course, was offered a level 3 apprenticeship in front desk/reception management. She said: “The Getting Back On Track course did exactly what it says on the tin. It literally got me back on-track and living life to the full again after a whole year of being out of work and feeling down in the doldrums.

“In fact, it has made me fall in love with learning after having a very interrupted schooling. Inspired by athletes and the wonderful teachers and administrators at London South East Colleges, this course has given me a clear picture of what I can expect in the future and I’ve even been taken on by the College in a real job. My confidence has risen enormously and I’ve been taught that I am worth so much more than what I thought previously.

“I would recommend it to anyone who feels stuck in a rut and low in confidence and moral. Thank you so much to Lucy for everything you have done for me – if it wasn’t for you and this great course, I wouldn’t be as happy as I am right now.” 

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