Catherine Boland on inspiring young people


In early September, I found out had been nominated for an award for Best Workplace Visit at the Founders4Schools award ceremony, taking place at the Frances Crick Biomedical Discovery Institute in London. We were shortlisted for the award based on feedback received following a visit we hosted in May of this year, with a group of students from Studio West School in West Denton in Newcastle.

The visit was organised via the Founders4Schools platform, an online service founded by the entrepreneur Sherry Coutu. Founders4Schools aims to improve the employability of students by enabling teachers to easily arrange encounters between business and education.

These visits are essential to broaden students’ knowledge of the career opportunities in the many varied sectors and businesses available in our region. alone has opportunities in Tech, Finance, Pre-Press, Customer Service, Manufacturing, Sales, Marketing, Creative and much more.

At, we understand the value of offering comprehensive and meaningful work experience, and have developed a programme aligned with the Gatsby Good Careers Guidance Benchmarks, accredited at silver level by the Industrial Cadets.

In advance of the visit, I requested a list of all the students’ names and they were each given a set of personalised business cards and a certificate to add to their employability portfolios. When the students arrived, we delivered a presentation giving an overview of the business, covering employability skills and the attributes we look for in our employees. This was followed by a site tour and back to the boardroom to carry out a team building exercise.

At the end of the visit, we supplied the pupils with a takeaway task to be completed back in the classroom to design a welcome card for a new employee. We received some great feedback following the visit from the pupils and from Sam McLoughlin, Business Engagement Manager at Studio West.

When I attended the awards ceremony last week, I saw that we were up against stiff competition from around the country, and it was inspiring to hear examples of other great initiatives linking young people with the world of work. I was thrilled to find out we had won, and I accepted the award on behalf of and Studio West. I’m now looking forward to the next workplace visit, and future opportunities to inspire young people by working with the Chamber and in my role as Enterprise Adviser for Heaton Manor School.