It’s not unusual for schools to occasionally welcome work guests to inspire their students’ career planning. But in Milton Keynes it’s a habit, thanks to local charity Worktree, now celebrating its 30th birthday.
Since 1992, Worktree has delivered a massive 250,000 employer encounters for school students in MK, including 50,000 work experience placements and 25,000 ‘Career WorkOut’ experiences. Last year alone, Worktree organised conversations for 8,000 students from 20 schools with 700 employee volunteers from 300 companies.
Student Anna Rose, 21, who now works as a facilitator for Worktree alongside her university studies, remembers her first Worktree experience.
“When I was at Bushfield Primary school I remember Worktree coming in and being given a Jobs Trumps card game to play,” she recalls, “then meeting four different workers and being told to work out their jobs by asking them questions. Then at Radcliffe Secondary School, each year we’d sit in a circle opposite a circle of work guests and we had six minutes to interview each one about their jobs.
“Now I’m actually working for Worktree, I get to see and hear the guests’ answers from a different angle. I realise so many people are not doing the job they expected when they were younger. Most people don’t take a straight path. It’s reassuring for teenagers to realise that. And hearing their stories helps inspire students to plan their own individual career paths.
“One of the guests I met when I was 14 got me thinking about Law, which is what I study at university now. Another got me interested in travelling, and I ended up working in China for a year when I left school. Working with Worktree now, I’m grateful to still have the chance to find inspiration from conversations with strangers. And as well as benefitting myself, it feels good helping people to think about their own next steps.”
Worktree Chair of Trustees, Alan Bullen, says: “We are a small charity with a big vision that every worker, no matter what their job or background, should give some time to answer students’ questions. Now we’re doing it online, it’s just 40 minutes. You just click into the Virtual Career WorkOut meeting and join four other workers with a teacher and a class of about 25 students. It’s easy to sign up at worktree.org/events and we welcome new volunteers.”
David Payton, Partner at Dentons LLP UKMEA, who will receive Dentons’ award for the highest overall number of sessions volunteered this year, with 167, will say: “It’s been enjoyable and productive working with Worktree over the years. 129 of our staff have met 8,095 students in 300 Career WorkOut sessions delivered by Worktree. It’s a great way for us to both talk to young people and motivate our staff in the process.”
Cllr Amanda Marlow, Mayor of MK City Council, one of Worktree’s sponsors, will say: “It’s important for our young people’s career planning that they get to see the fast-changing world of work as it currently is. The high volume and variety of employer encounters, which are delivered by local charity Worktree, are of great benefit to both our young people, and to local employees who clearly enjoy passing on their experiences.”
Other speakers at the Worktree reception will include the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire and Chair of South-East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership. Find out more about the event here.