Competency References Help Young People Reflect On Skills Development

Over the past few weeks in lock down, volunteers from the corporate world have been busy drafting character references for pupils who have been demonstrating their values and skills whilst supporting their communities. 

The inspiring pupils have all been involved in the Community-Apprentice programme, an inter-school competition runby the charity Envision.  It’s the antithesis of the Apprentice on TV: pupils demonstrate their competencies while running their own projects, but in this case they can only win as a team not as individuals and pupils compete to see who can make the biggest difference to their communities, rather than who can make the most money.

What a fantastic group of students! It has been a pleasure watching their confidence grow throughout the process. It is clear through doing the references, that they have learnt skills about themselves that they will take away and use in the future, which is what this is all about.

Laura Bilgic, Unum

The programme, which runs over nine months, sets three cross-school challenges which provide milestones to help teams keep projects on track.  Teams must have chosen a cause that matters to them by the ‘filmchallenge’ in late October so they can articulate why it matters in a short film, made in one take only.  By the Christmas ‘pitching challenge’, they must have a plan ready to pitch for a grant from a panel of business leaders. They then need to have carried out their activity ready to go ‘into the boardroom’ by Easter. 

Each week Envision Coaches facilitate activities in schools helping teams to set their own goals and overcome problems. Individuals earn points for their teams by completing personal skills challenges which correspond to the four key skills in Envisions syllabus: grit, creative problem solving, communication and teamworking. 

Every team is also partnered with a local company which provides volunteer mentors to support the young people. The mentors attend four workshops with the young people, co-facilitated by Envision.  It is these mentors who at the end of the programme draft character references for each participant.These documents provide examples of the competencies pupils have demonstrated using real examples drawn from their projects.  Participants are awarded the references upon graduation from the programme as a reward for the investment they have made in their community.

The work Envision does is truly invaluable. Having just done a competency reference-writing session with two students, it’s been great to see them reflect on their experience and see how much they recognise the value of it too

Niyah Campbell, University of Birmingham 

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, all of these reference sessions have been completed virtually by amazing volunteers across the country, offering support to recognise the young peoples achievements.