Written by Sophie Cudsen, Services to Education Team Leader.

I joined CSW Group in August 2019 after leaving my previous career in the hospitality sector – 5 years of late nights and weekend work just did not inspire me anymore! I was employed under the role of Project Administrator and given my first task of supporting the day-to-day running of the STEM Ambassador Programme, which included aiding registration, answering email and telephone queries, running weekly statistical reports and more. This programme is where volunteers, representing a range of STEM-related jobs and disciplines, provide support to students, teachers, and organisations by getting involved in a variety of activities throughout the year. Before long, I was invited to a local networking event, alongside my Manager, whereby we met with several important charities and companies who were also involved in inspiring our future generation. I was very proud to be able to advertise the work we were doing, whilst learning more about the exciting opportunities in my region.

By October 2019, I was still working as a STEM administrator but had another large task coming my way – Work Experience. This project already existed within CSW but was, fortunately, handed to the Plymouth team to take on. My colleagues and I received training on all aspects of the job and soon, we were up and running and getting busier each day! Essentially, we organise and conduct Health and Safety checks on behalf of over 100 South West schools. Each pupil will arrange a placement with an employer and then the school will pass on this information to us. As an administrator, I allocate these requests to our fully qualified WELOs (Work Experience Liaison Officer) who then conduct their necessary assessments at the company – all of this data then ends up across the 3 databases that we use. Other daily tasks include dealing with enquiries, liaising with Out of Area organisations, providing database training to schools etc. In my eyes, this is a beneficial service to both the students and CSW. Work Experience is one of the most important factors in the career development of a young person as it gives them greater confidence and the knowledge of what it is like in a ‘real’ workplace. It is rewarding for me to see the outcome of each H&S visit and I especially enjoy this role as every day is different – we have even had a request for a placement in Paris before (this would have been a nice holiday for us, however, not entirely practical)!

As the year has progressed, the Work Experience branch has blossomed. I truly value the relationships we have built up with each school and our very own WELOs, which makes things much more devastating when I say that Covid-19 has impacted this project, along with the rest of the country. Student’s due to go out from March onwards were forced to cancel their placements and understandably, staff were put on Furlough. Everyone’s hard work was cast aside, and, in all honesty, it was difficult to stay positive over the summer months. However, we have not let it dampen our spirits too much and have made a conscious effort to get things back to ‘normal’, whilst remaining sensitive to the situation. We do not know what is around the corner as we are living in an ever-changing climate, however, we will continue to give the best possible service to all.

As a CSW Group Administrator, I have had the opportunity to work on these amazing projects, plus others such as The Big Bang, Ambitions and Southampton Mentoring – although, I will avoid detailing these as I need this piece to remain an article not a novel! I have been able to build up my existing skills, whilst also developing new ones and going into the new academic year, I have fortunately been given a promotion which hopefully gives me even more insight into the fantastic work that we do. It is almost 2021, and despite the somewhat negative atmosphere, I am looking forward to seeing what next year brings both me and the rest of the world.