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.

A student’s view of the Leadership Symposium

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Student, blogger and aspirational journalist, Chris Stonadge gives his personal view of our 2019 Leadership Symposium. The event was attended by 100 students from state schools and sixth form colleges and nearly 200 senior industry professionals.

It certainly wasn’t the ideal start to the day. Being honest with you, a 5 A.M. get-up is never the ideal beginning for me. And with our two and three-quarter hour drive amalgamating into a four hour one, I was certainly on edge to get to Rothamsted Research, Hertfordshire – the location of the Symposium..

As we arrived you could sense the unique buzz of networking hive. The bustle of affluence in search of advice, partnership and innovation.

Chris (right) networking with Sky’s Anna Botting and presenter Jeremy Thompson

Ken and Lauren (Chief Exec and Head of Operations at Working Options) immediately welcomed us, we found our special name-tags (Student Blogger, I felt very privileged!) and we encountered already a particularly interesting product. MyFoodie – a vegan potato based smoothie which is suited to the modern market impeccably, which definitely caught the interest of the younger audience. I’m not just mentioning it because my Dad’s involved with it, I promise!

We entered the slick auditorium seated in the penultimate row from the front, with the flashing logos of GroceryAid and Working Options lining the flanks of a projector which read – ‘Leadership Symposium 2019’. Ready and waiting.

I came into the talks thinking – “How do you define Leadership?”. Being brutally frank, I wasn’t sure whether I could sit through five hours of speaking. Especially with a natural knack myself for doing things; I always have to be doing, rather than listening. Attention span isn’t always my greatest attribute. How wrong could I have been though.

The audience, filled with attentive and note-taking students, industry experts and fascinating people, actually motivated me and made me feel how lucky I was to attend the event.

100 student delegates were part of the audience

And not only this, but the opening speakers and their CVs particularly appealed to me. As a budding journalist, my interest perked at the sight of Sky News anchor Jeremy Thompson on the speaking and hosting list.

Never have I heard a man with a clearer voice. In fact, he was a man I sought to speak to at the break, just purely for this reason.

“I was just lucky with my voice, to be honest with you. Did I ever imagine getting into public speaking and presenting? No way, but ever since I have, I just imagine I’m talking to my Granny at the end of the table. If you do that, your clarity will be increased for sure. Especially if she has her hearing aid in!”

The opening speaker from the business world though, Managing Director of Warburtons, Neil Campbell, struck up a personal interest which probably led to my positive outlook and motivation for the rest of the speakers.

MD of Warburtons Neil Campbell

Again I was particularly impressed with the clarity, benevolence and composure of Neil and his CV especially. Walkers, PepsiCo, Warburtons – all household names, and when I discovered he was responsible for the iconic Gary Lineker/Walkers partnership I was struck with a cheeky grin of admiration.

Following Neil was former Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy – to my disgust an Everton supporter, and Devie Mohan of Burnmark. Both again were really interesting to hear in terms of different industries, knowledge, and background in business. Andrew Thornton, a pioneer in food and the eco-friendly market, stayed on trend and has a really fascinating and exciting brand in ‘Thornton’s Budgens’.

One which caught the ear of many in the morning session was former WH Smith CEO Kate Swann. She exerted confidence, normality, and general charisma which endeared her hugely to the younger audience. And she watches Love Island, always a tick in the box for me.

Kate Swann speaking at the conference

“I’ve learnt that perseverance is really important as there are lots of ups and downs in the business world. You have to keep going, be smart about every decision you make and be a clever leader.

One of the student delegates commented that: “Kate [Swann] was really relatable and down to Earth, which shows that leaders aren’t really uptight and mysterious people which is really encouraging.”

We then indulged in a tremendous lunch break, especially those MyFoodies (#Plug) and we returned for a second session of speakers, beginning with Arla’s MD, Ash Amirahmadi.

What was fascinating about Ash was his backstory. Having emigrated from Iran at the age of ten, Ash build up a brilliant business background leading to becoming Arla Foods UK managing director in 2018. He also opened up on his battle with depression – which again opened the ears of the younger audience in particular.

He was followed by the young winners of UK Top Talent awards, employees from Newton and Rubies in the Rubble, where Jenny Costa spoke of the Chutney she based from her Scottish roots.

Steve Murrells of the Co-op then spoke of the return of the company from almost administration, and the battles he faces against discount stores, the ‘big four’, and a personal battle after losing his wife and raising children as a single father.

The speakers then concluded with my personal favourite. Former England cricketer Matt Prior impressed me so much that I’ve decided to write an entire blog dedicated to him. Be sure to watch out for that!

Former cricketer Matt Prior speaks to Jeremy Thompson

So, from my attitude of an underwhelming 5 AM wakeup to watching some of the most clear and influential speakers I will ever see, I couldn’t give the Leadership Symposium enough plaudits. The credit for Lauren and Ken cannot be materialised. The time and passion put into the event was clear to see, and I have already recommended heavily to my Head of Sixth form.

I’d like to extend a personal hand of gratitude to each and every speaker, student and worker at the event which made it a pleasure to be at and experience. And what’s more, we got home for the footie. Even better!

Leadership Symposium inspires Collyer’s students

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Students from Collyer’s College in Horsham Surrey were among 100 students invited to attend our annual Leadership Symposium free of charge this month.

The event which featured high profile speakers from the food, drink and grocery retail industry including Sir Terry Leahy, Steve Murrells, Kate Swann and Ash Amirahmadi gives students the opportunity to hear from and network with leaders from industry.

Lucy Hargreaves, employability programme co-ordinator at Collyer’s, who attended with the students said:

“We work very closely with Working Options in Education, who have run numerous workshops with Collyer’s. This kind of access to top-level business is such a privilege. The kind donation of thousands of pounds worth of tickets for this event made this a wonderful opportunity that our students simply jumped at.”

Read the full article in the West Sussex County Times

Volunteer spotlight – Adesola Orimalade

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Adesola Orimalade has had a career in treasury and finance since he moved to the UK as an economic migrant in 2006 – most recently as Head of Treasury at Hogg Robinson Group PLC and previously at John Lewis.

Adesola volunteers as a speaker at our Insights from Industry sessions in schools and colleges and recently spoke to travel, tourism and business students at  the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London.

“I had a great time on stage yesterday as a motivational speaker at an event organised by Working Options in Education. It was an opportunity to share my career journey with students. The energy in the room was very positive and infectious. Really enjoyed meeting the students and staff! It’s always great to be able to give something back and inspire our leaders of tomorrow.”

Here Adesola tells us more about why he volunteers for us and why he’d recommend it to others.

Why do you volunteer for us?

 I first learned about Working Options in Education while I was with John Lewis in 2017 but I didn’t get in touch until a year later.  I came to the United Kingdom as an economic migrant in 2006 and at the end of 2018, I had come to the decision that it was time for me to start giving back to this country that has given me the opportunity to grow and progress my career.

Coming on board with Working Options was an easy decision, primarily because as a father of a teenage daughter I agree with the ethos of the organisation. In addition, one area of leadership I enjoy is motivating and developing people, whether they are family members, direct reports, team members, students or entrepreneurs.

Why you think it’s so important for young people to be able to access people from industry?

 I believe that there is a place for the theoretical knowledge that you gain from attending classes as a student. The ability to hear the career and life journey of those in industry, however, is invaluable. Industry volunteers are in a unique position to share their knowledge and how they have applied that knowledge in their career and life.

What do you get out of it ?

  • I enjoy sharing my story and using key messages therein to connect with the audience
  • I can relate with the students and how I would have benefited from interacting with industry professionals. That ability to relate motivates me to do more.
  • Personal satisfaction that I am part of an organisation developing leaders and motivating young people to make the best use of their skill and opportunities.
  • I am also developing my public speaking skills

Why would you recommend volunteering with us to others? 

There are a good number of professionals in the UK with a vast amount of knowledge and experience. Some are parents and leaders/managers so they are already involved in training/motivating and developing people at home and in the workplace. Many are looking for opportunities to give back and volunteering with Working Options and helping to develop our young men and women is a perfect platform to do that. If you’re a UK based professional or business owner who’s thinking of making a positive impact and supporting the development of future leaders, I would urge you strongly to contact Working Options. They need more volunteers!

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 laurenm@workingoptions.co.uk

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.