Why the Nexus In-School employability programme gets results
In 2022, 100% of young people that completed Nexus had sustained employment, education, or training after 6 months. Read on to discover why the Nexus In-School employability programme gets results.
Nexus In-School provides a hybrid curriculum learning and work experience programme for Year 10 and 11 students. It supports their eventual transition to an apprenticeship, college course or other training programme.
The Nexus programme has been running for over 17 years and has a strong track record of outcomes, including improved school attendance and positive progression, with increased numbers entering education, employment and training post-16.
It is currently available in Kirklees and, more recently, Calderdale. We are delighted to be able to offer this service in both localities and look forward to welcoming Calderdale schools and students to Nexus in September.
To delve further into Nexus and why it works, we caught up with Tanya Barry. Tanya Barry is Professional Services Manager at C+K and her role includes leading the team who deliver the Nexus In-School programme.
How does the Nexus programme provide positive opportunities for young people?
Every year we meet young people aged 14-16 who are keen to work and learn in a practical work environment. Our programme provides a solution for these young people. For three days per week, they devote their in-school time to passing core English and maths GCSEs and the remaining two days per week is spent gaining employability skills and valuable work experience.
By having the opportunity to develop work-based skills, the young people thrive and grow, which in turn creates enthusiastic, hardworking, and confident young employees.
"Adding a more practical element to the current curriculum"
The programme includes a combination of 1-1 mentoring and group-based learning aimed at preparing young people for a work placement and their eventual transition to an apprenticeship, college course or other training programme. Students attend a work placement whilst also studying a curriculum of core GCSEs in school.
How is this delivered?
Our Project Workers establish strong working relationships with employers, schools, students and their families, to provide the required level of support throughout the year to meet their needs.
Support to students is tailored to the student’s needs and career aims. It includes one-to-one mentoring, group sessions, talks from experts and employers, visits to workplaces, exhibitions, the completion of learning journals and a work placement.
- A dedicated project officer.
- 1-1 mentoring throughout the year.
- An appropriate work placement (once work ready).
- Placement health and safety check
- Employer liaison and regular placement visits.
- Employability and personal development learning programme.
- Personalised learning and journal.
- Daily attendance updates to schools and parents/carers.
- Regular progress reviews.
- Specialist support with post-16 transitions.
• 100% of young people progressed to employment, education or training.
• 100% of these young people had sustained employment, education or training after 6 months.
• 15.4% of these young people had secured an apprenticeship.
We are confident we will be able to sustain these positive destinations with our current 22/23 cohort.
What are the main challenges in delivering the programme?
We work tirelessly to ensure that the right type of placement is sourced for each student, offering much more than just a matching service. We get to the heart of a student’s needs, ideas, barriers, hopes and dreams for the future and together we agree a realistic and aspirational work placement.
The young people we work with have typically never experienced the world of work before and we work with them closely to help them understand the opportunities that await them.
Sometimes the challenge is helping a young person to recognise how an experience may support them in their future. It is only with their full buy-in that the Nexus programme will work. A huge amount of time is spent preparing students before they attend placement.
We view this as an opportunity rather than a challenge, but without the support and groundwork that goes into arranging the placements, Nexus would not be as successful and placements would not be meaningful. The pre-placement support is not always visible to stakeholders, but it is absolutely crucial.
"Finding employers can be challenging"
Finding the right type of employer has been a challenge post-pandemic. Some employers have ceased trading, others are dealing with the cost-of-living crisis and have no capacity to take on a student.
We are also experiencing shortages across the labour market which see our employers working flat out without a moment to consider how they might also mentor and support a young person.
Whilst this is a challenge, we work hard to find a convenient time in the employer's diary to meet with them and to discuss how supporting a student can support them now and in the longer term.
For many employers, the Nexus programme offers a potential solution to challenges including managing shortages and finding staff with the right level of skills. We aim to develop those key employability skills that employers value the most.
Why is Nexus different to other work experience programmes?
Spending time sourcing the right placement is paramount and what sets us apart from other providers. We provide mentoring and careers information advice and guidance to students to ensure they carefully consider the type of placement that would suit their needs.
By the end of the placement, our employers usually wonder how they ever coped without the student, and we provide the same high level of support to the employer as we do the student.
We are keen to work with employers that want to be part of the student’s life changing journey. They may have experienced similar barriers in their past and want to give something back to the next generation and provide positive role models in addition to work based support.
"Employers consider us a no-cost ‘trial-run’ pre-apprenticeship programme. They get the opportunity to explore whether an apprentice is right for their business and the placement can be used as an extended job interview for potential candidates."
We support and encourage employers to be part of changing a young person’s life and enjoy potential benefits including:
- An opportunity to train and mentor a young person in a specific trade or profession, helping to raise aspirations, boost confidence and support businesses.
- An opportunity to support local communities and industries.
- Pre-apprenticeship recruitment i.e. train up a young person without the financial cost of wages, and the option to offer an apprenticeship at the end of Year 11.
What ongoing support do employers receive?
Employers can rest assured that every student has a dedicated mentor who is there to support them throughout the year, as well as supporting the employer to manage the student.
Employers with little or no experience of working with a young person are supported by the mentor to agree tasks and responsibilities for their student, ensuring the student has a meaningful placement and you have a productive team member in your student.
"Nexus In-School provides appropriate workwear, safety footwear, and other PPE meaning there is no cost to the employer."
We understand that travel can be a barrier for many of our students and our project workers support students to travel independently within the local area. We also provide travel vouchers with no additional cost to the employer.
Here’s what some employers have had to say:
“Giving students another way to develop social skills and a way to learn, is what world of work is about. I choose Nexus In-School because it is completely funded and is all about the future development of the individual young person.”
“Our current student is a brilliant worker. He pitches in and is happy to do whatever work we ask of him and that’s why we’re looking at offering him an apprenticeship after he has taken his GCSEs.”
This year we have partnered with over 33 employers to provide extended work placements. Students are supported through 1-1 mentoring to realise their full potential and to agree appropriate work placements in line with their career ideas and needs.
What is the value for schools?
The Nexus programme provides an alternative to a full-time curriculum education, which may not be suited to every student. Providing an alternative for these students decreases the likelihood of disengagement and reduces the risk of students leaving year 11 with no further training, education or employment in place. In many cases we have seen school attendance and attainment increase as a direct result of Nexus participation.
Nexus supports students who may be:
• Motivated by practical subjects and work rather than study.
• Experiencing difficult relationships with peers (bullying, social exclusion).
• At risk of becoming disaffected or disengaged.
We are so much more than just a work placement; every young person has a unique starting point and different development needs. On Nexus, students follow an individualised programme, which moves at the right pace for them.
What are your hopes for the future of Nexus?
Our hope is that the programme will continue to thrive and grow. We enjoy strong working relationships with our schools and partners. Nexus is an opportunity for us to go the extra mile and offer a unique framework not available with any other local work placement service.
We are pleased that we can now offer this programme to our Calderdale students in addition to Kirklees students. Our hope is that one day we can continue to expand to offer this highly specialised and bespoke service to other areas.
Our database of employers continues to grow, and they are paramount to the success of Nexus. We hope to continue to engage employers and to go beyond work placements, continuing to provide a range of local labour market information to inform careers education and opportunities for the future.
Our mission has always been to inspire our customers to succeed and for this to happen we must work with employers to ensure that our customers careers needs can be realised and fulfilled.
Young people often just need the opportunity to experience what the world of work has to offer, and we are excited to be able to bridge this gap. Our aim is to continue to support smooth transitions to post 16 opportunities for all our young people.
Keep up and connect with Tanya on LinkedIn.