This year’s year 12 have just completed the final element of their Professional Skills Programme with a money-can’t-buy opportunity to impress an internationally renowned charity with their ideas, strategic thinking and presentation skills.
The students were challenged to develop a pitch to the British Red Cross to help increase youth engagement for the charity. The Director of Marcoms, Ilona Latta, came into school to set out the brief for the students. They then received coaching and advice on how best to put together a pitch and engage an audience. Divided into seven teams, the students had just a few weeks to work on their ideas and come up with innovative and exciting ways to present them to the rest of the group and to representatives from the British Red Cross. Their pitches were made to both Ilona Latta and the charity’s brand executive Marie Goder on Wednesday 21 June.
The teams came up with a range of very different but equally exciting and, importantly, workable ideas and concepts for meeting the British Red Cross’s needs. Ideas included: Snapchat filters, putting on comedy shows, gigs, festivals, food markets, school assemblies, YouTube adverts, social media challenges, pop up clothes shops and linking with well established school-based enterprises such as DofE.
What Ilona and Marie were particularly impressed with was the fact that the girls had not only researched and thought strategically as well as tactically, but also looked at utilising existing channels in innovative new ways. Also each group had found a different way of presenting to engage their prospective ‘clients’.
In the end one group was singled out for particular praise: they had not only shown a great rationale and excellent presentation skills but they had also explained the ideas they had rejected and why before reaching their ultimate proposals.
The Sydenham High Professional Skill Programme is very far from a standard PSHE programme and was developed to counter the finding that half of employers don’t think graduates have the appropriate skills to start work. This was the conclusion of research conducted by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) with 174 organisations in March this year. At the time, the Chief Executive of the AGR, Stephen Isherwood, said that people skills and a “fundamental understanding” of the world of work are often lacking and that more graduates need “the ability to work with people and get things done when things go wrong”.
Students gain many transferable skills through the Sydenham High programme that will stand them in excellent stead for university interviews, graduate recruitment programmes and ultimately the workplace. Kate in year 12 said that the programme had made her really think about how to approach working in a creative industry, She visited the Warner Bros offices and said that the experience had made her realise that she needs to present herself in a smarter and more professional way. Another current year 12 student, Phoebe, said that she really appreciated the fact that she was matched with a mentor who worked in the industry that she wanted to enter. This enabled her to ask specific questions about how to get into that industry and gain personalised advice.
“If we don’t enable our students to develop these skills whilst still at school who will?” said Dr Elyse Waites who devised and now runs the Sydenham High programme. “Our school leavers will be one step ahead of the game with this programme under their belts and they will be able to refer back to it when the time comes for them to be leaving education and entering the wider world.”