Bound to succeed – getting youngsters and employers outdoors together

Senior pupils on challenging Outward Bound courses can learn many 'soft' skills which will be of use in the world of work, while future employers can also help with active mentoring and even taking part
Senior pupils on challenging Outward Bound courses can learn many 'soft' skills which will be of use in the world of work, while future employers can also help with active mentoring and even taking part
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In Scotland, our government has done much to facilitate and encourage the education sector to equip young people with the knowledge and skills they need to flourish once they enter the working world. Initiatives such as Developing the Young Workforce bring together schools and employers in working partnerships to encourage and deliver learning opportunities.

This echoes the work we do at The Outward Bound Trust, linking local employers with local schools. For more than ten years, Whyte and Mackay has been giving opportunities to young people within their ­communities by supporting pupils from Invergordon Academy and Falkirk High School to attend ­residential learning programmes at our Loch Eil centre.

Martin Davidson, Scottish Director at The Outward Bound Trust

Martin Davidson, Scottish Director at The Outward Bound Trust

Invergordon Academy’s ­programme is designed for senior pupils aged 16-18, with a focus on raising and sustaining their attainment. This programme is supported by Pupil Equity Funding as well as the funding assistance from Whyte and Mackay. Company employees get involved with this programme and actively mentor the young ­people. Falkirk High’s programme compliments the school’s Step Forward ­initiative which aims to prepare them for the transition into further education, training or work.

Fluid systems specialist Swagelok Scotland also participate in a similar scheme. In 2016, employees (known as Associates), acted as employee ambassadors to accompany pupils from St Machar Academy in ­Aberdeen on a five-day Trust course, a series of outdoor adventures in beautiful wilderness surroundings.

Working with pupils to build confidence, leadership and resilience, Swagelok Scotland worked as a team with experienced instructors and teachers from the school. Swagelok wanted to become involved not only by providing financial support, but by being fully involved, hence the direct participation of their Associates.

This works well because the Trust seeks partners who are passionate about helping young Scots in their area/region to develop life-long skills, alongside schools. The companies pledge funds to be used over a sustained period, so that young people, many of whom might require financial assistance to access an Outward Bound residential course, can gain from a week in a challenging group environment.

Our work at the Trust not only involves schools and corporate partnerships but also extends to early career development programmes specifically designed for apprentice and graduates. We understand the skill sets that employers are looking for and for more than 75 years we’ve been working with apprentices to help them to navigate the demands within a workplace and instill behaviours that enable them to thrive. In fact, last year, in addition to working with more than 400 schools, we worked with over 3,200 graduates and apprentices to do just that.

We are doing something new on 27-28 April at our Loch Eil Centre by bringing together teachers and regional/national employers for a free taster weekend so they can ­personally engage with how the Trust weaves employability skills into ­residential programmes. In addition to the networking opportunities, attendees will go through our ­experiential learning processes and see the benefits first hand.

Key employability skills form the core elements of the courses. ‘Soft skills’ are increasingly regarded as essential for the world of work. In fact, employers say that these are as important as academic qualifications. Once good communication, punctuality and team work have been inculcated, a young employee is more effective at work.

At the Trust, we help improve pupils’ organisation and time-management skills, through giving them responsibility for planning tasks, setting and carrying out goals. We stress the importance of punctuality and encourage schools to follow this up throughout the school year.

Pupils also learn about the value and importance of working with others and that working as a team allows you to achieve more than working as an individual. Most of our outdoor adventure challenges are based on co-operation within a team. Leadership and motivation flow directly from team work too.

Employers also look for the ability to persevere, even when things go wrong. Tasks during our courses are designed to demonstrate how determination and perseverance can help pupils achieve their goal. A positive side-effect is the increase in confidence and self-belief achieving a difficult task can bring. Listening and clearly communicating are vital skills threaded through all the tasks pupils do. When working together to scale a difficult hill for instance, the importance of these skills becomes apparent. Planning and resource management are skills developed through practical decision-making, like deciding what food and equipment is needed for an overnight camp.If you are a teacher or an employer and interested in finding out more, or wish to attend the free weekend taster Developing Young People for Work on 27-28 April at our Loch Eil Centre, then visit outwardbound.org.uk/employabilitytaster or contact: Freda.Fallon@outwardbound.org.uk for more information.

Martin Davidson, Scottish director at The Outward Bound Trust.