Words for Work aims to unlock young people’s communications skills by connecting Year 9 pupils (13 -14 year olds) and volunteers from the local business community. The volunteers from Mansell have been working alongside students from Bishop David Brown since April this year to help prepare them for the workplace.
Words for Work gives young people the opportunity to learn more about the workplace by talking to the volunteers about their own experiences at work. It also helps them to develop their communication skills in a real setting in their team. The National Literacy Trust was motivated to run the project after research showed that 41% of UK employers are worried about the literacy skills of their new recruits*.
Sally Melvin, Words for Work Manager at the National Literacy Trust says:
“Words for Work came about in response to concerns from employers about the level of speaking and listening skills and confidence of staff entering the workplace. Young people who enter the workforce must be good communicators. We wanted to give them the opportunity to learn skills and use them in a real life setting, working alongside volunteers from local businesses.
“I’m delighted to announce that the Words for Work pilot has been a huge success. For me, the best thing is watching the young people becoming more confident and putting the communication skills they are learning into practice.”
James Scott, a Surveyor from Mansell and Words for Work business volunteer who worked with students from Bishop David Brown said:
“Coming from an employer’s viewpoint, I’ve been pleased to take part in the Words for Work project as it opens the students’ minds to what will really be expected of them as they start out in their careers. The students are enthusiastic, hardworking and really do want to learn as much as they can from you. When the course began they were shy, keeping their heads down and making no eye contact. Now they stand tall, speak clearly and make direct eye contact – I think that’s a great achievement. It’s vital that industry continues to be involved in education through initiatives such as this and I hope the programme will continue to be rolled out in other schools.”
Stuart Shephard, Headteacher at Bishop David Brown School says:
“The Words for Work project has greatly enhanced the curriculum provision in Year 9. All the students have enjoyed working with the business volunteers. We have seen motivated, enthused and happy students whose communication skills have significantly improved. It has been excellent for the school to engage with the business volunteers from companies that are not always open to engagement with their local school.”
In the future the National Literacy Trust hopes that the Words For Work project will impact on school practice and persuade policy makers that giving young people meaningful contact with people from business can impact on their speaking and listening skills. Effective speaking and listening skills are critical for employability and by helping young people to be confident communicators, the whole community benefits.
*Dugdale George and Jama Deeqa (2010) Literacy: State of the Nation. London: National Literacy Trust, p 5.