Lindsey Dunn
Bdaily Business News

Feeding North East youngsters enterprise

Whitley Bay entrepreneur Lindsey Dunn is on a mission to equip young North Easterners with skills and experience to benefit them in the their future careers. Her Skills to Shine programme uses vocational learning to reach this goal. Bdaily put some questions to Lindsey in order to find out more.

Can you give us a brief overview of what Skills to Shine is about?

Skills to Shine engages young people in real, relevant and inspiring educational activities, giving them the knowledge, skills and experiences to shine in their chosen career path. We raise their aspirations, motivation, drive and desire, while instilling the belief and confidence that they can achieve in whatever career path or future education they choose.

What gave you the inspiration to start the project?

Over the last ten years I have been working with young people using creative and innovative approaches to learning, to engage and re-engage them in the education system.

Whilst at university I worked with ‘Looked After Young People’, supporting them within schools and as an outreach worker. It became clear that far too often the education system did not work for these young people. Following university I planned to become a secondary teacher but felt formal learning was too structured and letting young people down, so I joined Tyne and Wear Museums running creative and innovative learning workshops. I was then given the privilege of working for Northumberland County Council defining and exploring enterprising approaches to learning in order to raise aspirations in the Wansbeck area. After being made redundant in 2010, I felt so passionately about the models we had been developing, and confident I could deliver results, that I founded Skills to Shine.

Why is it different to what has gone before?

The question isn’t really what has gone before rather what happened to everything that went before! In 2010 the majority of schools enterprise education projects either lost funding or what they could offer was really limited. Skills to Shine has managed to grow in this period by being entrepreneurial and enterprising, essentially doing what we teach.

How are you getting businesses involved?

Businesses are at the heart of every project we deliver with young people. We work with businesses to design, develop and deliver our projects introducing young people to the world of work in a real and relevant way. We arrange visits to businesses, talks from businesses, business mentors to support young people on projects and most importantly we work with business to ensure that what we deliver is ‘fit for purpose.’

How can businesses who read Bdaily get involved, and how can it benefit them?

We have just received funding from the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund to support young people in South East Northumberland and are looking for businesses and business mentors that want to give something back to the community. We also run lots of other projects over the course of the year and in the summer holidays where we ask businesses to help support the learning.

When you say how can businesses benefit, the thing I hear business people say all the time is ‘I wish I could have learnt like this when I was at school’. We are giving them the opportunity to be able to support young people making a huge difference to the young person’s future options and career choices.

What are your ambitions for the project?

Our mission is to engage young people in real, relevant and inspiring educational activities and our plans for the future are to make this a credible learning experience for as many young people as possible. We aim to do this in the following ways:

In July 2013 Skills to Shine UK CIC was successful in being awarded £270,000 for a four-year project from the Big Lottery. The Enterprise Project will be a new project that will allow us to take the best practice learnt from working with young people in schools and transfer it into a community-setting to engage young people outside of the education system. Doing this will enable Skills to Shine to reduce the social isolation of some of the young people we have seen become disengaged and removed from mainstream education. Over the last two academic years Skills to Shine has worked with seven schools in the north-east and one school in Birmingham to run summer schools to support disadvantaged young people in the transition from primary to secondary school. We now feel we have developed a model that can be rolled out nationally. Therefore we have invested in employing a full-time member of staff to role this programme out.

We feel the success of Skills to Shine will be in connecting our approach to learning to raising attainment and achievement levels for young people. Every project or activity we carry out is extensively evaluated and we are investing in research with Newcastle University to carry out a research project into our approach to learning to showcase this. We believe this will enable the Skills to Shine approach to learning to become mainstream rather than extra-curricular. Ultimately we would like to see the education system become more real, relevant and inspiring.

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