Posted: 27 March 2014

Class act

Careers Lab, careers advice, National Grid, schools, pilot scheme, STEM skills, engineering profession
Campion School in Leamington Spa is one of five schools across the Midlands that is trialling the Careers Lab initiative.

Campion School in Leamington Spa is one of five schools across the Midlands that is trialling the Careers Lab initiative.

The Royal Academy of Engineering says that, as a country, the UK needs at least a 50% increase in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) graduates to compete on a global footing in the future.

To tackle this problem, National Grid and other big companies have set up Careers Lab, a new initiative to help bridge the gap between education and the workplace, and to broaden young people’s understanding of the world of work and opportunities within the engineering profession.


The programme sees people from industry working alongside teachers in the classroom to give 11 to 16 year olds better careers information and advice. As a pilot scheme takes place at five schools across the Midlands, we spoke to a teacher, pupils and industry ambassadors following an event in Campion School, Leamington Spa, to find out what they think so far…

“Careers Lab is a real opportunity for ambassadors and teachers to come together,” explained Julie Gardner, Campion School’s Head of Personal, Social and Religious Education, the department which oversees all careers advice at the school. “We’ve planned together to create a successful structure that kids have really enjoyed.

“After all, a teacher can only do so much. We’ve got textbooks and our own input and ideas, but actually getting first hand advice from someone in industry is just incredible. The students are now more engaged and focused, because Careers Lab makes a point of getting students to understand more about their own personal pathway.”

This is a sentiment echoed by Daniel White, a HR Business Partner at National Grid who has worked at Campion School as a Careers Lab Ambassador, offering advice and teaching skills to pupils based on his experience in the engineering industry.

“I really enjoyed working with the kids,” he said. “I was surprised by the quality of their work: they really grasped the concept of skills and the importance of presenting yourself. You could see a range of abilities and personality types coming through, with the more vocal, confident ones learning to let quieter ones speak up and put their ideas forward.”

A methodical approach

Another company supporting Careers Lab is HS2. One of its Ambassadors is Sean Huxtable, who thinks the methodical nature of the initiative is paying dividends. “It teaches the children how to look at careers from where they are today,” he said.


“They can break down what they need to achieve, where they need to go to achieve it, and the skills and attitude they need along the way. Pairing teachers with people from business like myself is absolutely imperative, because the teachers have an affinity with the pupils in their classes and know them day-to-day in and out.”

Some 2,000 pupils from schools across the Midlands are now participating in a pilot scheme, the first example of which took place at Hodge Hill Sports and Enterprise College in Birmingham. More events have been rolled out to schools in Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire.

What did the pupils think?

Ana Lemos: “We used skills like teamwork, patience, organisation and planning. It was important for me to hear what these people had to say, because they’ve been through what we need to go through and could explain all about the world of work.”

Jack Southall: “These are people who have done it already and can give you good advice. For the first time I’ve really thought about myself and what am I good at. What are my qualities, what are my skills? It really helps to stand back and look at yourself like this. It’s made me realise that I want to do something I’m good at, not just something I have to do because someone told me to. Engineering appeals to me because I like creativity, design and seeing how things work. I’d like to say to someone in the outside world: ‘I designed that, that’s me’.”

Scott Bullock: “The Careers Lab people are different from teachers and have different experiences. They’re not just telling you ‘go to university, get what you need.’ Instead they’re saying ‘do whatever you need to do to get to where you want to be’.”

Joanna Marie Fernandez: “It’s made me think differently about where I want to go in future. The ambassadors said that you don’t have to go to university to follow your dreams, you can do an apprenticeship and get a job instead. Today we talked about the qualities and the skills you need at interviews, and why you need to be confident with yourself.”

Read more:

Julian Buttery, Project Manager, Careers Lab, explains why the pilot is helping set a new pace and direction for careers advice in schools. Click here for more.

Related links:

Steve Holliday, National Grid’s Chief Executive, on the UK skills gap.

The Careers Lab is a partnership between schools and business to bring the world of work alive to young people.

plotr is a new careers platform, that gives young people the help they need to build the careers they want.

Business in the Community.

The National Schools Partnership.

Gas innovation in full flow
“A teacher can only do so much. We've got textbooks and our own input and ideas, but actually getting first hand advice from someone in industry is just incredible.”

Julie Gardner, Head of PSRE at Campion School