Sunday 18 March 2018

Sky's the limit when it comes to career programme

The media company's new initiative is designed to help students reflect on skills they need to develop for life

Nathan Kelly and Kelvin Millea, St Kevin's College, with teacher Graham Maher on a visit to the Sky Careers Lab.
Nathan Kelly and Kelvin Millea, St Kevin's College, with teacher Graham Maher on a visit to the Sky Careers Lab.
Kerry footballer Darran O’Sullivan addresses St Kevin’s students and Sky Academy leader Jafar Al-Kamalie.
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Helping teenagers to develop the skills they need for success in later life is one of the challenges for the education system. It is not only about laying the foundations for the path to a fulfilling career, but also nurturing the strengths and character necessary to embrace life in all its aspects.

Career-wise, the knowledge and technical know-how learnt in the classroom are important and, under the Irish system, so too is garnering those CAO points. But, nowadays, employers are also asking 'what else have to got?'

If every job applicant has a 2:1 degree - and, overwhelmingly, they do - it is the 'what else' that will mark a candidate out.

The ability to communicate well is invaluable in any job interview, while employers also place a high value on attributes such as teamwork, creativity and resilience.

The education system has gradually been recognising the need to equip school-leavers and graduates with more than a certificate of academic achievement.

Most recently, the new junior cycle curriculum puts a focus on broadening the range of ways students are taught and assessed in order to engage them in active learning and to capture skills that cannot be measured in a written exam.

Classroom-based assessments introduced under that initiative, and happening in many schools in coming weeks, involve students of English delivering a three-minute oral presentation on a topic of their choice.

For the students, it means independent research, presentation and oral delivery. It offers the first occasion for most of them to express themselves in this way and allow them add public speaking to their CV.

The wellbeing subject, also coming as part of new Junior cycle, brings together strands of civic, social, personal and health education, with resilience-building at its core.

Transition Year (TY) offers space for students to reflect on their educational journey, explore non-curricular activities and think about what they might like to do in life beyond school. They usually get an opportunity to taste career options before getting caught up in the frenzy of the points race.

The TY options are many and varied, and seek to broaden horizons through visits to workplaces, work experience, trips to career and college fairs, or programmes, such as in entrepreneurship.

There is the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP), an optional module in senior cycle, among the aims of which is the development of interpersonal skills.

Global media giant, Sky has come up with its own take on helping teenagers to unlock their potential through a number of initiatives, including its Sky Academy Careers Lab.

Sky has 900 staff in Ireland and 30,000 across Europe so it knows the attributes that will stand to teenagers in later life, the same skills that employers find desirable: creativity, communication, teamwork, planning, resilience and confidence. The Careers Lab sets out to develop and measure these skills.

It was launched in the UK in 2014, where more than 6,000 teens have participated, and is being rolled out in Ireland from September, when the company will open its Dublin HQ one day a fortnight to different groups, targeting 15- to 19-year-olds in schools and youth groups.

It offers something different from the usual. Yes, students will have an opportunity to learn about jobs in Sky, which cover the full spectrum from journalism and marketing to design and technology. Though, more than that, it is about helping them to reflect on their personal strengths, as well as identifying areas that need development.

The day is led by a dedicated Sky team, and it starts with students completing a survey to determine personality type, skills and the kinds of jobs ti which they might be most suited. They open a personal Careers Lab account, where this information is logged. They also set some personal goals, described by Sky as an 'inspired action'.

Students move on to a motivational talk, and Q&A, with one of Sky's athlete mentors, who, as part of their work, also visit schools. Sky has more than 20 athlete mentors in Ireland, with boxer Katie Taylor at the top of the pile as a Sky ambassador.

On the day the Irish Independent visited, Kerry football star Darran O'Sullivan, was chatting to 16-year-old LCVP students from St Kevin's College, Crumlin, Dublin about his road to success, the passion that drove him to the top and how he used to be "so afraid of public speaking."

In the afternoon, students break into teams and are put to work on a practical challenge, based on the sort of real-life issues at the heart of Sky's day-to-day business.

Teams get to choose from a selection of tasks and have about an hour to come up with a strategy on how they would approach it, before presenting to the wider group. It could be something like how to get more women to visit a Sky store, an idea for a new Sky service based on customer research or deciding what resources to allocate to a breaking news story.

Students can save a range of information from the day to their Careers Lab account- including a word cloud highlighting their self-declared strengths and weaknesses - and access it, as well as careers-related content provided by Sky, from home. They can then use this to guide their personal journey.

Sky Academy manager Billie Rose Boorer says that through the Careers Lab experience they have seen how students can recognise and display their strengths and how "outside the classroom they can become a leader."

Sky's involvement doesn't end when the students leave the Burlington Road HQ. Six or 12 months later, independent researchers follow up to see how they are doing.

According to Ms Boorer, it does have a positive impact. "The students feel more confident and what we are seeing is that they are likely to take a minimum of one inspired action, such as writing a CV."

St Kevin's LCVP co-ordinator and business studies teacher Graham Maher says his students felt the day was very beneficial.

"They got to see what companies are looking for and the experience of having to do a task under pressure. It was difficult, because they weren' t prepared, but they said it was a learning curve.

"Today they are doing interviews as part of their LCVP programme and they feel a lot more at ease because of what they did last week at Sky."

Anybody interested in Sky Academy Careers Lab can visit for more details and email to register interest in a school or youth group attending a session in Dublin.

Are you sitting the Leaving Certificate this year?

The Irish Independent is seeking an exam candidate who is interested in writing a daily diary on their experiences over the three weeks in June.

It's a golden opportunity to write for Ireland's leading daily newspaper, to share your thoughts and feelings as you journey through this educational rite of passage, and even to sound off to the examiners if you feel like it.

Anyone interested in being considered for this role should, in the first instance, send an email to Irish Independent Education Editor, Katherine Donnelly at by Friday May 6.

Irish Independent

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