Worktree celebrates 30 years of innovation with volunteering awards

by | Nov 25, 2022 | News

On Thursday 24th November 2022, Worktree celebrated its 30th birthday (see key dates in history) by welcoming 70 business leaders and volunteers from past and present to a special awards evening at MK:U Innovation Hub in Central Milton Keynes.

With drinks organised by law firm HCR Hewitsons, guests enjoyed a series of stories, images and videos of personal and corporate involvement in Worktree’s mission to prepare young people for work.  MC for the evening was was Michelle Theuma of Onyx Recruitment.

Former-Councillor Norman Miles and Mike Reilly MBE shared personal reflections as original directors of COUNTEC Education Business Partnership, which was formed in 1992 through a partnership between Buckinghamshire County Council (‘COUN’) and the Training and Enterprise Council (‘TEC’).  They emphasised the importance of innovation in Countec’s history, from from organising work experience placements to the development of ‘Citischool’, a school without walls for excluded students in 2002, and the transformation of Countec to Worktree in 2012.

Current teachers Nicola Parkins and Matt Jones talked about Worktree delivery today, noting that over the past year Worktree has enabled 1,472 students to meet and interview 214 work guests from 103 companies in 68 Virtual Career WorkOut sessions.  Worktree’s Tom Bulman talked about the charity’s future, ‘growing Worktree’s branches from our trunk of MK businesses to schools and businesses across the country’ and how now, with schools funding more focused on essentials such as heating buildings, business sponsorship has become increasingly important.

Testimonies of working with Worktree were heard from different perspectives: Ian Revell, CEO of MK Community Foundation, spoke about Worktree as a reliable deliverer of grant-funded projects;  Richard Moody talked about the personal satisfaction he derives from volunteering; David Payton of Dentons LLP UKMEA, whose staff have volunteered in 312 sessions with 8,310 students since 2015, talked about the benefits to Dentons’ corporate social responsibility activity.

The benefits of partnership with Worktree were heard from three of Worktree’s current sponsoring partners:  NHBC, Dentons LLP UKMEA and Personal Group.

Then it was time for the presentation of the Corporate Volunteering Awards by Alan Bullen, MD of Lynx Networks Plc and Chair of Worktree Trustees.

Then came the presentation of the Individual Volunteering Awards.

Winners of Individual and Company Volunteering Awards

(Other winners of Individual Volunteering Awards who were unable to attend:  Clay Modeler Richard Collins (49 sessions) and Libby Hallows of Santander (20 sessions)).

Then special guests spoke.  Mayor Amanda Marlow talked about why providing young people with employer encounters was important for Milton Keynes; Debbie Brock, High Sheriff of Buckingham, talked about her experiences of running a sweet shop and why enterprise education was so important.  Peter Horrocks CBE, Chair of South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) concluded by describing Worktree as a leading example of quality delivery of multiple employer encounters to students across the region.

And then the party really got going!

“We were delighted to be recognised for sharing our employees experiences of work with 870 students last year,” said Catherine Suter of Volkswagen Group afterwards, “and are excited to continue to grow our partnership with Worktree through our Volkswagen Group UK INSPIRE programme.”

Richard Moody of Network Rail said:  “I find volunteering for Worktree extremely rewarding both from being able to support pupils in thinking about their future careers but also how it makes me more positive about my work. I am extremely proud of the support my colleagues from across Network Rail have provided Worktree.’’

Sarah King of SMC Pneumatics said:  “We began our partnership with Worktree in January 2022 and in that time, our staff have engaged with 450 students.  Everyone who has participated has found the experience very rewarding with many finishing one session and immediately booking in another one.  Winning the award was a lovely surprise and we can’t wait to bring more staff on board in attending the career sessions.”

Sam Ducker, Business Partner at Xero, said: ‘We’ve been delighted to involve our staff in sharing their experiences of work with 630 students last year and winning the award was a really proud moment for us at Xero and it’s amazing to see how much collective support across so many businesses there has been in sharing our career journeys and stories! We love working with Worktree and look forward to joining even more Career Workout sessions next year!’

Suzanne Moss of Ringway Infrastructure Services said:  “Ringway are pleased to support Worktree and actively encourage our teams to attend the Career Workout Sessions.  Our staff always enjoy the sessions, ranging from Directors and Senior Managers to Highways Apprentices, all have a huge amount of experience to share as well as raise the profile of a career in highways and women in the construction industry and we are proud to have attended  a number of sessions which have reached almost 500 students last year”.

Emily Rowley of KPMG said:  “KPMG are delighted to have been put forward for an award after devoting 53 hours, and meeting 1,392 students over the last year.  Worktree is a great resource which I wish I had when I was at secondary school, as I didn’t know the alternative pathways as my school sixth form were constantly pushing everyone to go to university. Allowing an insight and inspiring young people to believe that success is subjective allows them to really believe and motivate them to see that they can have the career that they dream of, and employers aren’t necessarily looking out for just qualifications.  KPMG are looking forward to attending more sessions over the foreseeable future to continue inspiring the next generation!”

Thanks to the event hosts, sponsors, organisers…

…and Jane Russell Photography for the photographs.

If you would like to volunteer with Worktree, joining others to answer students’ questions in a 40-minute Virtual Career WorkOut session, click

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