Dress rehearsal for the world of work

The department of health’s ‘Teenagers to Work’ scheme is about to
draw to a close after a third successful year.

Throughout the summer, more than 350 15 to 18-year-olds in care
across the country have been working for around 50 local
authorities in a bid to prepare them for the world of work.

The scheme, part of the Quality Protects programme, has been
endorsed by Denise Platt, chief inspector of social services, who
has herself been shadowed by two young people during visits over
the summer.

Its aim is to give care leavers and those in care approaching the
end of formal education the opportunity to work for up to four
weeks shadowing a council employee in a field in which they may be
interested in pursuing a career.

Among those taking part in the scheme is the London Borough of
Sutton which has 14 teenagers working in a variety of roles at
sports halls, the library, an ecology centre and family unit. Those
taking part receive an allowance of £3.50 per hour to cover

The work gives them experience of a particular job, life in the
workplace and a chance to develop their CV, Chris Wright, Sutton’s
project co-ordinator, explains.

“Young people today need a lot of work experience to give them a
better idea of what they do and don’t want to do. It gives them an
insight into different systems in the workplace,” she says.

Sutton tried to make the scheme as close to real life job-hunting
as possible.

The council advertised positions at a one-day job shop where
supervisors were available to meet those who expressed an interest.
Teenagers gave a first, second and third choice before a careers
adviser, supervisor and social worker decided who was most suited
to particular jobs.

“Some positions were more popular than others but most people got
their preferred choice,” explains Wright. “They then had to contact
the supervisor to arrange a start date and visit the workplace to
get them thinking independently,” she adds.

During the placement the supervisor works closely with the teenager
explaining different aspects of the job, working together and
delegating tasks where appropriate, in accordance with set

Finding supervisors who can devote enough time and making sure the
placements are stimulating for the young people are the major

However, the number of Sutton placements has grown steadily since
the scheme started with just three people in 2000, and Wright is
hopeful the trend will continue.

“The feedback from staff has been positive and they realise the
experience for the young people is really important. Hopefully the
word will have spread,” she adds.

Sarah’s sutton summer

Fifteen-year-old Sarah has spent her summer holiday working at
Sutton Council’s family centre.

The centre offers therapy services to children under 10 with
behavioural difficulties, and their families and carers.

During the placement Sarah has worked in the crŠche assisting
with therapy groups, in the office doing administrative tasks and
looking after the children.

“I’ve learned how to deal with aggressive children and those with
behavioural problems and I now understand the support needed by the
parents of children with disabilities,” she explains.

Sarah says she’s also learned how to operate phone systems, use IT
packages and about the importance of administration. She plans to
take an NVQ in child care.

Kathy Hoyle, project worker at the centre and Sarah’s supervisor,
welcomes the scheme but says staff originally had reservations over
confidentiality issues because of the sensitive nature of the work.

Sarah had to sign a confidentiality agreement and couldn’t work
unsupervised with children.

Hoyle says: “We talked about how important it was and it doesn’t
have to close the door. It’s an important scheme for young people.”
She says that Sarah integrated well into the centre team and
interacted successfully with parents and children.

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