Working Options news

We sadly say goodbye to our Chairman of Trustees, Bob Willis MBE.

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Paul Monk, Founder of The MonkeyBusiness Foundation and WorKingOptions in Education has written a few words to commemorate Bob Willis and what his support has meant.

We are deeply saddened by the loss of our Chairman of Trustees, Bob Willis MBE. Bob was so much more than our Chairman as he was also instrumental in the creation of the WorKingOptions in Education Charity itself, came up with the idea for our annual charity fundraising event, The Leadership Symposium, and was ever-present on The Leadership Weekend that raised over £2m for the GroceryAid Charity. Bob was an inspirational friend to us all, cared deeply about our charity work, full of innovative ideas and such great fun to work with. We will miss him terribly but aim to continue our important charity work with his inspiration guiding us.

Our thoughts are with Bob’s family and friends at this time.

Could you be our Programme Delivery Manager?

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We’re embarking on a period of exciting growth and we’re looking for an ambitious professional with operational and programme delivery experience to join our team. This is a full time role based in our new office in Luton, Bedfordshire with some UK travel.

Reporting to the Head of Operations, your role will primarily focus on organising and executing a multitude of learning events aimed at employability and life skills for schools and sixth form colleges. Your responsibility will be to ensure high-quality sessions are delivered with a lasting impact. You will work with education institutes and volunteers on a frequent basis, taking ownership for planning, organising and the assisting of over 200 events per year.  In some cases, you will also facilitate sessions and workshops.  You will manage a large community of volunteers, which will include recruitment and retention. Your day-to-day workload will include office administration tasks including the management of a CRM system, performance reporting, tracking and writing quarterly updates, alongside fundraising and event support.

This is an exciting ‘full-on’ busy role that requires an upbeat, energetic style and personality, someone who is adept at handling a wide variety of people, those senior-level professionals (the volunteers), educators and students, as well as charity trustees and stakeholders. Versatile, adaptable, flexible, and SUPER-organised are key ingredients of this role.  You must be able to think on your feet and prioritise efficiently.  You will be a confident, strong communicator in all facets and brilliant at building relationships by phone and face-to-face.  Even better, if you’ve experience of the food, drink and retail sector.

Above all, your passion for working with and wanting to help young people fulfil their potential, as they prepare for their futures, will shine through. 

Working Options in Education is committed to safeguarding and ensuring the welfare of children, young people and vulnerable adults and expects all employees and volunteers to share this commitment.The suitability of all prospective employees or volunteers will be assessed during the recruitment process in line with this commitment.

Download the full job description and person spec here.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the role and how to apply, call Lauren Monk, Co-Founder and Head of Operations for an informal chat on 07944 443073 or email

New office space in Luton!

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We’re delighted to have secured a new office for Working Options in Education in the Coach House at Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton – a building owned and run by Luton Culture. We’ll be moving in very shortly and very much looking forward to all working together under the same roof. A big thanks to Richard Clinton at Luton Culture for providing the space at a preferential rate for us.
If you have office furniture that you are looking to re-home – tables, chairs, filing cabinets – we’d love to hear from you.

Luton sixth formers visit Odgers Berndtson

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At the end of the summer term, employees from executive search company Odgers Berndtson partnered with us to run a day of interactive employability skills workshops for Luton Sixth Form College students at their London offices.

One of the students said:

“This was an amazing experience and definitely, one I won’t ever forget, I gained a lot of knowledge on interviews, CVs and many other things.”

Staff from the college were equally positive:

“The staff had really pulled out all the stops to make our students feel comfortable in an unfamiliar environment and to impart invaluable information on CV’s, interview technique and good practice on social media. I hope that many other schools/colleges and more of our students are able to experience going into a workplace and hearing from employers directly.”

A big thank you to Jane Dessar, Partner at Odgers Berndtson for getting staff on board to make this amazing day happen. If your company would like to run something similar for students, we’d love to hear from you.

Get in touch to discuss how your company can partner with us.

New and youngest team member joins for work experience opportunity

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We are delighted at Working Options in Education to introduce Chris Stonadge to the team. Chris is an aspiring journalist and approached us to ask for some work experience to help him achieve his goal. We are very excited to have Chris on board and he will be helping us with our social media platforms and marketing amongst other things. Here is a little introduction from the man himself….

My name is Chris Stonadge and I am in a fortunate position because I already know I want to become a sports journalist at the very highest level. At seventeen, I’m currently studying for my A level exams next year (English Language, Sociology and P.E.) with the view to studying my passion of writing at the University of South Wales, whilst contributing daily to a football news and features website. I’m passionate about all sport, about working hard and delivering the best quality and effort in everything I do. And let’s not forget enjoying every moment as it comes.

I decided to join the Working Options in Education team to help me realise my vision of becoming a journalist. This opportunity will give me invaluable work experience and also means I can help other young people become clearer and more informed about their future career options like I am. I’m looking forward to helping the Working Options team by bringing a young person’s perspective and ideas to make content relevant and helpful!

Our partnership with the Quality Food Awards continues

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Now in it’s 40th anniversary year, we’re delighted that Working Options in Education is once again partnering with the Quality Food Awards to sponsor the Rising Star award.

This award recognises the food and drink retail industry stars of the future and is open to anyone under the age of 25 who works in any area of the food and drink industry or is studying to enter this field.

So whether the young person in question is working as a chef or in the retail grocery sector, be it in a small convenience store or a large supermarket, or studying food technology, the Rising Star Award wants to recognise those bright sparks who show the passion and drive to succeed in the food and drink industry.

The award is free to enter, nominations are welcome until 14th June and the ceremony takes place on November 22nd.

Enter for the Rising Star award

Here’s what Bea Hill of Mallow and Marsh has to say about the food industry and winning the Rising Star Award last year.


Employability skills workshops to be rolled out

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Over the last few months we’ve been piloting four standalone employability skills workshops – presentation skills, interview skills, teamwork and problem solving – with some of our school and college partners. These build on our motivation and information sessions by offering students a more in-depth experience in much smaller groups and fill some of the ‘employability skills gaps’ both students and employers frequently identify.

Feedback from students and colleagues has been very positive and we’re pleased to now be rolling these out to more schools and sixth form colleges. To do this, we’re looking for corporate partners to join with us to fund and/or take part in delivering these sessions. Maybe your staff could come and head up mock interviews or run a presentation skills session for example.

“After experiencing yesterday’s problem solving lesson, I brought home many useful tips that could help me with practically  any problem I face. The tip that caught my eye the most was ‘strategizing’, as I never looked at a problem in this way. Next time I face a problem of my own I will use this tip to help tackle the experience. I would like to say thank you for a great experience.” [sixth form student]

“Presentation skills are an important life skill that our students will find useful, whether they choose to go to university or straight into work. With good presentation skills, they’ll be able to communicate with confidence in a variety of situations. This workshop gave them practical tips on how to get their message across and gave them the opportunity to try their new skills in small groups.: [Business Lecturer]

We’ve tried, tested and refined the content for our employability workshops, but what really brings this all to life for students is having real life experience from employers and the world of work.

If your company would like to get involved please get in touch.

Leadership Symposium 2019 – book your place

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Bookings are now open for our fifth Leadership Symposium which takes place on November 7th 2019 at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, Hertfordshire.  Speakers include Sir Terry Leahy, Nicky Morgan, Steve Murrells CEO- The Co-Op, Kate Swain, CEO-SSP Group and Jeremy Darroch, Chief Executive Officer and President -Sky.

The Leadership Symposium is a unqiue and lively event attended by delegates from across the food, drink and grocery industry including Commercial Managers and suppliers but is relevant to management at all levels and from all disciplines.

All tickets purchased support us and GroceryAid and every year we invite students from the schools and colleges we work with to join the event, share the experience with delegates from business and take with them a very positive view of working in our industry.

Join us to hear some of the most well respected figures in the industry share all they have learned in business, have the opportunity to ask them your questions, hear panel discussions and connect with colleagues and future employees of industry. The Leadership Symposium offers a great opportunity for teams to get together in a relaxed environment. There are always opportunities for personal development and learning.

Book your place

Leadership Symposium remains a big hit with students

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Fantastic to hear that students attending our annual Leadership Symposium in November got so much out of the experience. One student’s networking skills resulted in a degree apprenticeship with an industry delegate they met at the event. Others secured work experience shadowing the Chief Executive of one of the UK’s largest recruitment agencies and with a gaming business that produces educational video games.

Every year, we invite sixth form students from around the UK to attend this high profile event, providing a fantastic opportunity for them to hear from and rub shoulders with leaders from industry. Speakers this year included Dave Lewis, CEO of Tesco, Debbie Robinson, Managing Director of Spar UK, Douglas Lamont of Innocent Drinks and journalist Piers Morgan.

Here’s what students from Collyer’s College had to say about the day:

“A very good experience it was great to meet such a wide variety of speakers and to have an  insight into the numerous jobs in the industry. It was valuable to practice my networking skills. I quickly realised that you could speak to a top CEO and after the nerves faded you could hold a good conversation with a group of people you had not met before. I am grateful for the opportunity to build on my skills and also to see such inspiring speakers.”

“It was such a great experience. I enjoyed the advice to understand risks not fear them. I particularly liked the presentation from FareShare as it demonstrated an ethical approach to business and ethically correct marketing that particularly interests me.”

“Very engaging I learnt so much about presentation, how to play to an audience and network with confidence. Being able to practice my networking skills really helped me with my questioning – talking to actual industry professionals was an experience without compare.”

“It was fun to try networking and I got to meet some good people. I had not considered this industry before (retail) but now I can really see the potential of it all.”

“From a self-esteem point of view it really spoke to me about confidence. I initially found networking quite challenging but being able to watch the rest of the team actually put these skills into practice gave the opportunity to develop my skills and I came away with some valuable contacts in the end. I was able to organise a degree apprenticeship with Jude Ower MBE and her IT company Playmob. An absolutely unbelievable opportunity.”

“It was a very enjoyable day encouraging, optimistic and it showed me that even the highest regarded business individuals can still be approachable.”

And the tutors gave us great feedback too.

Lucy Hargreaves, employability Coordinator at Collyers College said in an article in The County Times:

“This kind of access to top-level business people is such a privilege. The kind donation of thousands of pounds worth of tickets for this event made this a wonderful opportunity for our students!”

Chris Jennings, tutor from Cardinal Newman College brought along a group of Business and Economics students.

“I just wanted to say a huge thanks again for last Thursday; what an experience for our students! They were really buzzing about it and bragging to their mates on Friday. We would love to be invited back next year.”

Thanks from Bexhill Sixth Form College

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Last week we ran one of our motivation and information sessions for 100 students from the Politics, Economics, Business & Law Section at Bexhill Sixth Form College.

Speakers included Liam O’Brian, Account Manager at Salesforce – the world’s #1 Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform.

Andy Pritchard, Head of Politics, Economics, Business & Law at the college said:

“The opportunity for our students to get exposure to such industry experts was extremely valuable. Liam inspired our students to be proactive in both creating and taking opportunities to develop their employability skills. They reinforced our message that in today’s labour market, individuals have to seek opportunities to enhance their CVs and have an ability to articulate their own viewpoint.”

Bexhill College motivation and information session