Shine bright like a diamond | By Sarah Marquet

Social entrepreneur Stephen Carrick-Davies is a man who wears many hats. These include working within the non-profit sector as a freelance consultant and trainer, helping to run a successful community café – Hill Station – in South-East London, as well as being interim chief executive of the Inclusion Trust, a trust that focuses on young people who have been excluded – ‘pushed out’ – of mainstream education.

It was actually through his involvement in Hill Station when he realised there was a huge disconnect between school and work. When he was in the café, many young people would literally beg him for a job. “I would ask these people what they wanted to do and they would reply: ‘anything’,” he told Recruiter.

Through Hill Station, Carrick-Davies and business partners tried to give employment to as many as possible. For many, it was their first job; for others, the experience launched careers in the hospitality industry or helped them into further education. So he thought it was time to really consider the root cause, to help people leaving school with few qualifications better prepare for the world of work.

“I realised that many people who come out of school haven’t been given confidence and empowerment to problem solve, yet those are among the things employers want,” Carrick-Davies says.

Thus the Facework project was born. With backing from social tech investor Nominet Trust, employability education charity Worktree and the Inclusion Trust, for over two years Carrick-Davies ran intense sessions in five pupil referral units (PRUs) across the UK and co-designed a model to help excluded young people face work. The focus was on just five core STEPS to work (see Facework STEPS, below) – the ‘soft skills’ and attitudes which employers say they want from staff.

“If it’s true that employers recruit for qualities and train for skill, then helping those young people who, for various complex reasons have been told they don’t matter or who feel rubbish, has to be a priority, because everyone has enormous potential,” Carrick-Davies explains.

Launched late last year, Facework specifically targets marginalised young people – who the Facework team label ‘pushed out’, putting the onus on the education system rather than the individual. Others, who had first-hand experience of feeling pushed out of employment, accompanied Carrick-Davies around the PRUs to offer their input into the scheme. Jack Burt was one of those, who heard about the Facework plan after spending four demoralising years trapped in a cycle of unhelpful government-run employability courses.

He says those courses only taught the basics, such as how to prepare a CV, which were clearly not working as “the results stay the same [no work] and it’s so degrading… And if there’s one thing I felt the entire way, it was that I wasn’t worth it, I wasn’t worth being recruited for anything… and I don’t want anyone else to feel that way,” Burt says.

What became clear in talking to pupils and teachers at the PRUs, which provide education for those unable to attend mainstream school, was that understanding soft skills was especially important for these people most at risk of becoming NEET [not in education, employment or training].

The education system, Carrick-Davies says, measures people by their ability to sit an exam while failing to recognise the skills many young people acquire through growing up in challenging situations – protecting themselves from harm, becoming resilient and even caring for family members, can be transferred into work situations.

Although online resources give young people information about jobs, not many sites or resources help people understand what they can bring to an employer. The STEPS mnemonic and skills categorisation helps “demystify the rhetoric and theory about employment”, Carrick-Davies says.

Set up as an education resource for teachers working with students aged 14+, Facework uses platforms young people understand – videos, social media, as well as songs, cartoons, specific apps, posters and more. ‘Facework Challenges’ on its website help young people understand skills, challenges, solutions and how to apply them to the world of work.

Other Facework resources help people ‘flip their thinking’ – challenging long held ideas, attitudes or behaviours such as ‘I can’t get a job because I’m not confident with people’.
Not only does Facework help young people understand what is needed for employment success, it asks them to help pass that on through creating their own videos to share with others seeking Facework’s help. This helps firm up their own learning and development, while passing on valuable information.

Carrick-Davies says teachers instinctively know that if they can help shape pupils’ attitudes and behaviours for the adult world, and prepare them for the likes of handling rejection, they can significantly improve those pupils’ future prospects and even their social mobility.

Although the focus groups were run initially with PRU pupils, the Facework material is for everyone, Carrick-Davies says. “I wanted to tackle one of the hardest issues, the people that don’t have any qualifications and haven’t done really well in school.”

Despite having been launched for a few months, during the creation process about 60 PRU pupils, all of whom had input into the material, were helped in varying ways.

Now it is online, the number of people it is helping is unquantifiable, he explains. But with the backing of global accreditation body OCR (Oxford, Cambridge RSA), it will be easier for teachers to cross-reference the Facework curriculum to their OCR employability qualifications. He stresses it is not an ‘off-the-shelf’ product and merely provides the tools from which teachers can develop lessons.

Facework STEPS

S – Self-management: managing time, following instructions and controlling frustrations

T – Team working: respecting others and agreeing to team goals

E – Enterprising: customer service and using initiative

P – Problem-solving: spotting, sharing and solving a problem

S – Speaking and listening: being confident to share self-interests, understanding body language and making yourself be heardShine bright like a diamond - Facework Recruiter magazine article

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