For those of us who have left education, you’ll remember that all-consuming terror of ‘what will I do now?’ after leaving the school gates for the last time.
But thanks to one woman; future generations may never have to follow in our footsteps.
Carla Delaney is a fairy godmother when it comes to throwing a lifeline to teens as they transition from the classroom to the real world, with her Preparing Young People For Work initiative ensuring no one will leave school thinking they aren’t good enough.
Speaking exclusively to Uspire, Carla said the idea for her company kickstarted after she had no clue herself of what she wanted to do when she left school.
She explained: “I didn’t think I would be ‘good enough’ to have a career and I definitely didn’t think I was good enough to go to uni.
“I had no clue about searching for work and, in fact, I was scared of going to interviews.”
Unaware and afraid of how to get her foot on the ladder, Carla turned her back on the world of work and started a family instead. It was not until she hit 24-years-old that she secured her first full-time job as a bank cashier.
Carla told us: “Anyone who knows me will know how laughable this is, as maths is my biggest weakness. Yet as no one had shown me how to identify my skills and strengths, I ended up working in jobs I didn’t like and wasn’t even good at just to pay the bills.
“Fast-forward a few years, and I ended up working in recruitment – and I loved it. It plays to my strengths – talking to people, building relationships, being organised, writing job specs and emails – and aligns with my core values of helping people and being honest.
“I wish I’d known more about how to identify my skills and strengths all those years ago and hadn’t wasted so many years trying to succeed in roles that weren’t for me. I also wish I’d had more confidence in myself as I didn’t think I had much to offer, sad but true.”
Carla says her sons were not academic either, with one of them in particular struggling at school as the objective always seems to be getting C grades or above and steering kids towards university rather than addressing their individual talents.
She said: “This is great for those kids who are ‘clever’ and excel at their studies, but what about the others to whom school work does not come easily to them?
“They unfortunately are made to feel that they won’t do well in life. This knocks their confidence and can lead to them feeling hopeless and scared for their future.”
While Carla’s passion may have stemmed from her own experiences, it was recognising her power to guide others that truly sent life in a new direction during a role where she ran employability courses for young job-seekers through the Job Centre.
It was here that Carla’s skillset really blossomed as she taught the groups how to write a good CV, how to perform in interviews, and also placed kids into apprenticeship roles.
Carla – who now works for Tate in London – said it was becoming a volunteer mentor for young people last year that finally made her find her true calling.
She explained: “I would meet with my ‘mentee’ once a week, just to be a listening ear and someone they could share their fears with that wasn’t a teacher or family member.
“I really enjoyed this, but I could still only help one young person at a time, when I know there is probably thousands who could do with the support.
“I then had the idea to create something that was online, which could be accessed by any young person in the UK (or anywhere in the world).”
And so, Preparing Young People For Work was born.
Carla now helps school-leavers prepare for the world around them and close the “huge knowledge gap” which students going into Year 10 and above often have.
The number of ill-prepared young people never ceases to amaze Carla as she says that teens are taught to take exams… and little else.
She said: “No one teaches them how to prepare for work when they leave school, as in how to create their CV, how to search for jobs online and apply to them, how to approach recruitment agencies, how to prepare for job interviews, how to follow up after an interview and even how to behave at work once they do land employment.
“All of this information is really important and yet young people including graduates are leaving education without this vital knowledge.
“I decided to create a course which explains everything they need to know, step by step, in basic terms which young people can access and refer to whenever they need it.”
Carla said with so much negativity in our coronavirus world, the job market is proving tougher than ever which gives more incentive to learn how to stand out.
Asked if she has any other objectives, Carla said she wants her young people to know that exam results aren’t everything and that you can still be successful in life.
She added: “An example is my cousin James. He’s 28 and has a great job in sales as an account manager, yet he is dyslexic and didn’t leave school with grades higher than a D.
“He really worried that he wouldn’t be able to get anywhere in life, but he didn’t let his challenges hold him back. He started working as a sales assistant at age 19, then worked hard and moved up.
“He said the biggest challenge he faced was himself. Everyone has that voice saying you can’t do it; everyone has self-doubt and that’s the biggest enemy. You need to have confidence in yourself and never turn down an opportunity in life.”
Quizzed about the future, Carla says her mission is only just beginning. Next, she plans to interview successful adults from underprivileged backgrounds who didn’t go to uni in a bid to inspire other young people in a similar position.
She also hopes to start an online training programme for young people to have an interactive digital experience, as well as offer a sales training course.
As they say, not all superheroes wear capes, and Carla certainly is one!
For more info, click here: Preparing Young People For Work.