I've spent the last two years working for The Challenge as a photography practitioner on their NCS programme, teaching photography to 16/17 year olds in Hackney and Islington. While working with The Challenge this year, I found out about a new initiative they were about to launch called Step Forward, so I successfully applied to become a part-time mentor/tutor.
In my former life as a college lecturer, I always felt that young people should be taught values as well as what was on the syllabus, but this was sadly lacking. So when I read about the Step Forward principles: Stick at it, Team first, Empower yourself and Professionalism, my decision to work for them was a no-brainer.
Step Forward is a London-based apprenticeship scheme for motivated 18 year olds which gives them work experience, the opportunity to study for a qualification and professional development training. At the moment there are three career pathways in Accounting, Business Support Services and Admin with Youth Work. In 2015 this will be expanded to five pathways: Accounting, Business Support Services, IT, Software and Web Development, Social Media and Digital Marketing, and Working with Children.
The Step Forward induction kicked off with a gathering at The Ibis Hotel, Southwark on 25 August 2014, a very wet Bank Holiday Monday. I was part of a team of five staff who accompanied 42 apprentices, but I'm only mentoring 13 of them and they're called Team Bingham, named after Liz Bingham. The other groups are named after Warren Buffett and Geoffrey Canada.
You know what it's like when people meet for the first time - everyone on their best behaviour and cautiously eyeing each other up. We got the introductions out of the way and did some ice-breaker activities, then after lunch we boarded our coach which was waiting for us outside the hotel to take us to Portsmouth, then onto a ferry for a five-day residential induction at UKSA on the Isle of Wight.
The apprentices had a full itinerary of paddleboarding, dinghy sailing, kayaking, orienteering, keel boating, raft building and racing on the River Medina and the Solent. I love being on boats and am a good swimmer, but the thought of capsizing a small vessel in open water turns me into a complete wuss! Consequently, I opted for 'shore duty' for most of the week with the exception of a trip on the Solent in a keel boat with some of my mentees, but only after the UKSA staff assured me that it was virtually impossible to tip it over.
Even though they were way outside of their comfort zones, all of the apprentices fully embraced the experience, which bodes well for how they'll cope with working full-time whilst simultaneously studying for a qualification.
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