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An innovative partnership provides students with careers experience

In the midst of the COVID pandemic when all non-essential businesses had their doors closed to visitors, students found it near impossible to secure work experience, however an innovative partnership between John Lewis, Buckinghamshire Skills Hub’s Bucks Enterprise Adviser Network and The Royal Latin School, has ensured students still receive first class careers education.
John Lewis on hearing that Year 10 students at The Royal Latin School would be unable to undertake their usual work experience programme offered to help. In conjunction with the Bucks Skills Hub, John Lewis set a challenge and supported Year 10 students with a virtual workplace experience that would involve staff visiting the school once restrictions allowed. 
Renowned for their annual Christmas TV commercial, they asked the students to create their own storyboards and present their own version of a John Lewis advert. Working in small groups the students had to consider the sales perspective, what charity it would profile, supply chain and distribution solutions as well as brand credibility. Staff from John Lewis and the Bucks Skills Hub then attended the school to hear the presentations and select winners. The winners were presented with John Lewis vouchers and other teams also received prizes. 
Marina Jackson, Under 19 Skills Manager & Careers Hub Lead, Buckinghamshire Skills Hub, and a judge on the panel said: “I was so impressed by the range of ideas and the professionalism of the students in responding to the task. They demonstrated a wide variety of skills including problem solving, leadership, teamwork, creativity and many more. Thank you to Heather Holman and the whole John Lewis team who have supported our young people and to Jane Comben and the Royal Latin team for taking on the challenge.” 
The aim of the competition is to enable students to gain experience in workplace and have extensive two-way interaction with employees. All 169 Year 10 students at Royal Latin School participated in the competition, which included some outstanding work showing high levels of creativity and imagination. Pupils were able to ask questions and received answers and feedback from John Lewis Partners (employees).
Feedback from students was extremely positive, with such comments as: “I enjoyed creating the ad campaign as it allowed me to use my skills in a way I haven't before”, “It was a very fun experience where we learned lots of employable traits like the ability to communicate well in a team” and “I learnt to work in a larger team and learnt a lot about what it takes to fulfil certain roles within a group”.

Year 10 students at the school are now able to demonstrate on their CVs and college/university application forms that they have an experience of a workplace. This initiative has yielded such positive results that John Lewis have been asked by other Bucks schools to deliver similar projects. 
Heather Holman, Project Manager at John Lewis and Enterprise Adviser to Royal Latin School commented: “It was a great experience to be able to collaborate with Jane and the school, who were so supportive. All of the students engaged fully in the task, and we were really impressed by their presentations. The amount of effort they put into researching costs, sustainable options, their products and storyboards etc blew us away and every group had something unique and special to share - whether it was their passion for their chosen charities, their emotive storylines or the added extras they proposed for the campaign.
 “All in all, they made our job as judges really difficult and it was a very close call between first and second. We decided on the group from N2 with their #WarmingYourHeart campaign as the winners, which revolved around helping the homeless by buying them a coffee and featured Christophe the cocoa bean. The winners were awarded John Lewis gift cards.”

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