‘You’ll never win anything with kids!’. So claimed a well-known football pundit … just months before a youthful Manchester United side ran away with the Premier League title. The saying is as far off the mark now as it ever was, as is clearly demonstrated by Worktree – a Milton Keynes charity, dedicated to introducing young people to the world of work. Thanks to Worktree and the support of working professionals from across the community, it’s clear that time and again, the kids are winning.
Digital Leadership Strategist, Jono Poon, brought together Worktree’s Theresa Mercer and Tom Bulman with Tim Lee from business networking group, Collaborate MK. The four of them discussed the astonishing successes that can be achieved when the world of work opens itself up to the needs and ambitions of young people.
Tim, you’re the founder of Collaborate MK, a flourishing business networking community. Tell us about your working relationship with Worktree.
TL: You know – it’s a perfect example of how networking works. At one of our events, I was introduced to the charity by a close contact of mine and found myself immediately attracted to the work they do. Bringing people from the world of work into schools seemed such an obvious way to give children a leg up.
What do you enjoy most about collaborating with Worktree?
TL: I’ve always been passionate about business and the breadth of opportunity it brings. So, I’ve loved visiting Worktree events and witnessing for myself the power of engagement. Seeing the enthusiasm with which young people engage with the business community. Worktree is Collaborate MK’s chosen charity, so, when I see a bunch of people from my own networking group getting involved, I get a special buzz.
Buzz seems to be a word we often hear about Collaborate MK.
TL: That’s right, Jono. At our weekly online meetings, often with 80 or more businesses attending, we do enjoy an enormous amount of fun. You see, that’s the best way to get to know each other and for genuine relationships to form, which ultimately translate into fruitful business relationships.
Tom – tell us about Worktree and how it works.
TB: Worktree can be best described as an education-business partnership. Since its inception in 1997, we’ve worked to connect, in the widest sense possible, young people to the workplace. One of our biggest successes is our Career Workout programme. Pre-pandemic, this involved holding events in schools, where we invited half a dozen or so representatives from all kinds of working environments to answer the children’s questions. Of course, we’ll pick this up again post-pandemic. We also help to slot young people into working positions. Would you believe that since 1997, we’ve placed over 50,000 teenagers into work experience? We also run a school for 14 to 16-year-olds who’ve been excluded from school.
So Tom, how has Worktree adapted to the challenge of COVID-19?
TB: Well, with evolution and innovation being cornerstones of our ethos, our response has been 100% positive. We’ve launched Career Snapshots. This is a kind of ‘browser board library’, where we’ve taken six of the most commonly asked children’s questions, which are then answered in a 15-minute recorded video by our supporters from the world of business. These videos can then be accessed by the young people. The COVID silver-lining is that we now realise the enormous potential of this. Why restrict Career Snapshots to Milton Keynes? Let’s keep building it. Before long, our ‘browser board library’ will evolve into a massive archive of Career Snapshots from across the UK (and the world – why not?) – a facility accessible to children from all corners of the globe.
Theresa – tell us about your role with Worktree.
TM: I’d always wanted to become a Primary School teacher, but somehow finished up in HR. Once my children reached school age, I saw Worktree as the perfect chance to combine both. I just love the engagement with the children – to witness how they become inspired by listening to adults describe their own backgrounds. I also get a real kick from seeing how our supporters from the world of business feed off the kids’ enthusiasm and become inspired themselves.
Jono Poon – Freelance Digital Leadership Strategist, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.jonopoon.com
Tim Lee – Collaborate MK, email tim@Collaboratemk.co.uk or visit www.Collaboratemk.co.uk
Tom Bulman – Worktree, email email@example.com or visit www.Worktree.org