KATIE BULMER-COOKE: Work experience key to success

It's a majorly important time for the school kids in our city this week, with those in primary and junior schools tackling their SATs and then the older ones have GCSEs and A-Levels to take on.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 23rd May 2016, 12:50 pm
Updated Monday, 23rd May 2016, 3:48 pm
Kids need to be equipped for the real world not just exam grades
Kids need to be equipped for the real world not just exam grades

It seems that this year, more so than any other, exams have really hit the headlines, and it’s all pressure, pressure, pressure.

I’ve never known so much fuss made about exams and so much pressure piled on top of kids, teenagers and schools to perform. Yes, it’s important to stick in and do your best but if it’s our children’s careers and long term prospects we are so worried about, then shouldn’t we be placing some more emphasis on their practical skills and getting them work-ready?

When I’m out and about, speaking at business events, I’m not hearing business owners and company directors saying how much they want an employee with 50 million A* grades, instead they are seeking people who have the skills required to get stuck into business and a hard working attitude.

They want employees with a great ability to interact and create solid relationships with customers and they want people who can problem solve and use their brain without being prompted, and above all they want people with work experience.

For me there is as much to be gained from older children spending a few weeks doing work experience, preferably in the industry which they’d like to work in in the future, as there is in assessing their academic knowledge via tests and exams.

When I advertised for my first team member I received some very impressive CVs in terms of academic profile.

I read CV after CV packed with amazing grades, but what I was really scouring every CV for was relevant experience.

Of course I needed someone who could read, write and do a little maths, but what was more important to me and my business was the ability to actually carry out the role on a day to day basis.

In my opinion, we need to encourage more entrepreneurialism in schools, and not just as a mini project in the latter years of study, but from an early age and on a regular basis.

Why not give our primary school children the chance to run their own little businesses within school, allowing them to earn some pocket money and learn skills like costing, customer service, independence and responsibility.

I’ve been encouraging my little girl Heidi to do this at home so that she can earn some pocket money, however it has kind of back fired on me this last week.

She decided she’d turn our dining room into an art gallery, packed with pictures she has made.

She priced each picture and I had to come in and purchase pictures I liked, and I tell you what, she’s not daft...the cheapest picture was seven quid! Fair play to her, she set her sights high.

Here’s to not putting kids under too much academic pressure and instead, equipping them with the skills that will help them in the real world, as well as encouraging them academically.