Aberdeenshire’s Career Ready Student of the Year, Abbie Welsh is joined the Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee last Thursday, May 30, to mark her achievements and recognise the work going on across Aberdeenshire to ensure school leavers have the skills they need for learning, life and work.

Abbie (17) who is from Pitmedden has just completed her time at Meldrum Academy which was named as one of the top 30 schools in Scotland this year for getting school leavers into employment, training or further study. She decided to take part in the Career Ready programme to develop her skills towards becoming a journalist, her dream job.

The programme links employers with schools and offers participants access to a two-year programme during which they are supported by business mentors and take part in a four-week paid internship.

Abbie was linked up with Helen Low, assistant manager at Bon Accord Care’s Balnagask House in Torry. Having expected to be matched with a PR agency, newspaper or similar, neither Abbie nor her mentor were sure what to expect. As Abbie says: “The first time we met I couldn’t look her in the eye, let alone clients or co-workers, but now I feel I can chat with anyone.”

Abbie undertook her four-week internship in June last year. As well as being put in charge of developing a newsletter, which grew from two to 20 pages because clients and staff were so engaged, Abbie recalls how helpful it was to be thrust into planning activities and simply spending time with the elderly people in her care.

She explains: “I am so much more confident since gaining that experience. It was fascinating to hear stories from a different time. I remember just sitting with the older people initially and realising I couldn’t just sit, and then building a rapport with clients and learning so much from it that I didn’t expect to. After the internship it was just really good to have someone to talk to, away from school, who could offer support and guidance.”

Abbie has a place at North East Scotland College to study journalism and media and is eagerly awaiting her exam results this summer.

Career Ready is one part of a much bigger drive across Aberdeenshire to better prepare children and young people from 3 – 24 for the world of work and reduce youth unemployment by 40% by 2021. It’s about providing learning which is directly relevant to getting a job, and all secondary schools are audited on their performance.

Meldrum has an employer engagement group in which they foster links directly with local businesses and the staff team make a concerted effort towards everyone understanding the skills needed for learning, life and work as well as delivering inspirational career talks and ensuring all pupils have the opportunity to study vocational and/or employability qualifications.

Abbie’s mentor Helen added: “I am delighted to have been able to support Abbie through her Career Ready Programme. During her four-week internship, and with some guidance, she actively engaged with our Activities Coordinator and residents, joining various groups, to get to know them better. Abbie learned how good it was to work with others, and our residents really enjoyed the newly developed newsletter. I feel she has become a much more confident person, and know she is on the right path for her future career aspirations.”

Committee chair councillor Gillian Owen commented: “We are so proud of Abbie and the confident, career-ready young person she has become. In Aberdeenshire the percentage of pupils going on to positive destinations has been increasing steadily to 96.3% and it is brilliant to see how programmes like this can make such a difference to young people.”

Vice chair Mark Findlater added: “Our Children and Young People’s Charter commits us to making sure young folk have opportunities and that’s what this is about. Our Chief Executive Jim Savege is a Career Ready mentor and we’re looking for many more businesses and individuals who would be willing to lend their time to support this important initiative.”

Find out more about Aberdeenshire’s approach to Developing the Young Workforce at: http://dywaberdeenshire.org/ and more on the Career Ready programme at https://careerready.org.uk/ Every secondary school has a coordinator who you can speak with directly for more information.