Saturday, 6 April 2013

# 52 (2013) Putting Something Back – The National Citizen Service

If there is one thing that worries me, it’s how much reliance we have put on education in our modern age. Many trades have been made relatively extant in this country or are not seen as valued vocations. And yet in many ways these are becoming far more valuable than academic ability as they are themselves now in the minority.

The mentality of staying on in education as long as possible (partly I suppose because of all the problems with employment at the moment) has had a marked effect on our attitude towards further education and the quality of graduates trying to find their way in the world.

Many young people are educationally institutionalised by the time they finish their studies with a growing number not leaving education until their early 20s or even later. It means that very often they lack social skills and the kind of work ethos expected from employers. They sometimes struggle to meet the expectations of companies and make the transition from student to adult. And this has become a major problem in our society today. Equally those students who are less academically able, have struggled and often fall through the net. Not because they cannot learn but because their skillset isn’t suited to an academic environment.

But we are beginning to see signs of change. Students are opting for work experience over qualifications as a valid learning tool. Many are now starting to question university and turning down higher education. Employers too are tired of seeing highly educated applicants with little grasp of the work environment. It’ll be a relief to those non-academic students who flourish in a hands-on capacity but struggle to show their true potential on paper, frustrated by the expectation of peers that you have to climb up through the levels of postgraduate study.

The National Citizen Service was originally trialled as a pilot project in 2011 to get 15 to 17 year olds some experience of the world outside the classroom and inspire them to do more.
The project, which is being run nationally, gives students the chance to get out of the classroom with a set of team building and socially interactive events from raft building and rock climbing to locally based projects that put something back into the community.  It includes two, one week residential team weeks away and two weeks planning and actioning a community based project in the local community. The end result is something on your CV and a graduation certificate.

Team building skills (source)

I have only recently come across this scheme but I can see what it’s trying to do and I think it’s a good idea. Education is all very well but nothing beats experience that shapes an individual and turns them into valued workers and socially confident individuals.

As far as the students are concerned the roll out is being dealt with. But I have discovered that they also need mentors, lead mentors, SEN mentors and volunteers to help lead the small teams of young people through the scheme to a successful conclusion.  You don’t really need any experience, just an interest in young people, an appreciation and understanding of what the project is trying to do and be relatively flexible with your time in the school holidays as the bulk of the week’s run in July. You’ll get full training and even better, mentor jobs are paid which for many of us will be an added bonus.

If you’re interested, take a look at the website and see what you think. Put something back!

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