Kick-starting careers

Teenagers from across Forth Valley aiming to kick start their careers as apprentices took part in a top employability course run by building services company FES in conjunction with Hand Picked from CR Smith.

The 34 school leavers from Alva Academy, Stirling High School, Bannockburn High, Lornshill Academy and Wallace High School attended two Hand Picked Academies, each held over three days at the FES training centre in Stirling. The academy courses were specifically designed to boost the teenagers’ chances of being selected for one of the 28 apprenticeships available at FES.

This is the fourth consecutive year of a successful collaboration between FES and Hand Picked, an employment opportunities programme run by CR Smith for young people.

Last year, six candidates on the Hand Picked course were offered apprenticeships with FES, and 10 took up apprenticeships with other local companies. For those that don’t go on to become FES apprentices, they leave the course with greater skills and confidence to help them compete in the jobs market.

Robert Wood, contracts director at FES, said: “Hand Picked came to us over four years ago and brought a fresh and unique approach to support young job-seekers and create a platform for them to learn important employability skills while showcasing themselves to prospective employers.

“FES is a company based in Stirling which is proud to do its part to help local schools and their young people as they go out into the workplace. We see the Hand Picked Academies as a good platform to help bridge the gap between school and starting work. It is our way of giving back to the local community to assist its young people with the academies which are dynamic, pro-active and extremely professional.

“We now recruit a third of our apprentices through delivery of this course. However, the main benefit we see is that all candidates walk away from the experience with newly found skills that make them visibly confident in themselves as they seek employment.”

Ruairi Gallagher, a former Hand Picked Academy graduate and now working at FES, said: “Hand Picked definitely helped me. I was 17 when I took part back in 2017. It helped me balance out my options and gave me the information I needed on the industry. I thought FES only did two trades but from this I saw there were a whole range of trades available that I was unaware of.”

Pauline McGeevor, Hand Picked project manager said: “Our Academies are entirely focused on supporting young people into jobs and we are always looking to work with like-minded employers, such as FES, to provide a positive start to the working lives of young people in the local community.”

Hand Picked, which was set up by CR Smith boss, Gerard Eadie CBE, is the only employability programme of its kind run by private business. It works with employers who recognise that they have a responsibility in helping shape the future workforce.

Approached entirely from the employer’s perspective, it teaches a young person about the jobs and skills required by businesses and how they should market themselves to prospective employers. The course provides the candidates with honest, robust feedback while giving them new insights and experiences of what it means to get a job and more importantly keep a job.