If you ever needed proof that Generation Z are going to do things differently when they enter the workplace, look no further than Inspiresme Week. The week-long event, run by Workspace, the Greater London Authority (GLA) and Business in the Community (BITC), offers young people work experience at start-ups and New and Growing Companies and this year’s event certainly ended on a high.
Daisy Greenaway, Senior Policy Offer for Youth at the GLA, recalls the final day: “When it was all over, the students refused to leave the room. Suddenly, they were all beatboxing and rapping – rapping about Inspiresme Week! The atmosphere was absolutely electric.”
That same energy and enthusiasm was there in abundance on 1st July when we attended the Inspiresme Week Ambassadors’ Day. The event was aimed primarily at those young people who didn’t manage to secure an internship this year – demand for work placements far outstrips supply, and there are now 19 schools participating in the programme. An all-day business masterclass packed with fun challenges, it gave the students a chance to network, develop their skills and find out more about the world of business and entrepreneurship.
Inspiresme Week is as much about being inspired myself as it is about inspiring these kids.
Quentin Crowe, The Marketers' Forum
Business mentors, including Quentin Crowe of The Marketers’ Forum (based at Kennington Park), Ben Prouty from LOVESPACE (based at 60 Gray’s Inn Road) and Clare Dundas, Workspace’s own Head of Corporate Communications, gave help and encouragement throughout the tasks. One project management challenge involved recreating a paper and post-it note sculpture on a tight budget and the students revealed themselves to be an enterprising bunch – “I can’t believe how many of you tried to haggle with me!” complained the GLA rep manning the “materials shop”.
In the afternoon the students were joined by their classmates who’d taken part in the February event, and formed school-based teams to work on strategy and planning tasks – including devising their own Enterprise Day for younger students at their schools. Some of their final presentations seriously impressed their mentors, but then as Quentin Crowe commented, “Inspiresme Week is as much about being inspired myself as it is about inspiring these kids.”
According to Abdel Ydri, Work Related Learning Manager at St Augustine’s CoE High School in Kilburn, Inspiresme Week has been a great confidence-booster for his students.
“It’s helped them develop employability skills such as teamwork, presentation and interview skills," said Ydri.
"The fact that the business volunteers bring their know-how to the table is invaluable when it comes to linking what’s learnt in school to what’s applied in the workplace. Not everything can be taught in the classroom and by teachers.”
What’s so fantastic is that after the initial week, a lot of the companies continue to develop their relationship with those schools.
Daisy Greenaway, GLA
For those students who undertook work placements in February, there was no tea-making involved; interns were thrown very much into the deep end. “I was visiting client’s houses, asking them what they want their gardens to look like, sketching and measuring their gardens, using Photoshop, making booklets,” says Nesrine Lebbakh from St Augustine’s, who interned at Stefano Marinaz Landscape Architects (at the Barley Mow Centre). “I really felt like I was being useful. And it gave me an insight into architecture, which is my chosen career path.”
Students are encouraged to keep in touch with their mentors and with any other contacts they’ve made through the programme. “We’re keen to track their progress,” says Daisy Greenaway. On July 11th there’ll be another follow-up event, when a group from St Marylebone School meet the GLA housing team – the students won the inaugural Inspiresme Week Social Enterprise competition with their ideas for tackling homelessness.
“What’s so fantastic is that after the initial week, a lot of the companies continue to develop their relationship with those schools,” adds Daisy.
"Four of this year's students have been invited back to do work placements or internships. From these beginnings we see young people go out and start their own businesses and really start to think differently about what they’re able to do.”
Would you and your business like to get involved in next February’s event? You can find out more about Inspiresme Week here.