In September 2016 Benenden became one of the first schools in the UK to offer a Professional Skills Programme - a course dedicated to teaching girls the general skills they need to thrive in the workplace.
The Programme was launched by Dr Margaret Mountford, one of Lord Sugar’s original advisers on The Apprentice, and came partly in response to comments from business leaders about the lack of such skills in graduates in the UK.
Benenden’s new programme is teaching Sixth Form girls practical skills that are vital for the workplace. These include teamworking, having the confidence to turn an idea into a business proposition, giving a business pitch, developing business plans and reading complex financial information.
Lesley Tyler, Benenden’s Deputy Head Academic, has developed the Professional Skills Programme. She said: “There is no point in a young person leaving school with straight A grades if they lack the skills to function effectively in the workplace. Schools should not mistake a syllabus for an education. We see it as our duty to ensure girls leaving Benenden are equipped for the modern workplace.
“We have put an enormous amount of work into our Professional Skills Programme to ensure it is relevant, challenging and authoritative, and we are incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped us create it.”
The course has been developed in collaboration with senior figures in business and includes an entrepreneur-in-residence who will work with girls throughout this year to enhance their business acumen.
The Professional Skills Programme is made up of six compulsory modules:
- Employability: this includes preparing a CV, taking part in mock interviews, applying for a job or internship and experiencing at least two days of work which is paid by the hour - for instance at the Benenden Village Shop.
- Financial Literacy: this includes how to open and manage a bank account, how a mortgage operates, how to budget on a student loan and how to write a business plan.
- Presentation and Communication: this includes taking minutes from a meeting or chairing a meeting, designing an advert, writing a press release and delivering a persuasive speech.
- Research Methods, Critical and Creative Thinking: this includes undertaking an ALIS test, attending workshops with the Study Skills company Elevate and conducting a significant piece of research.
- New Technologies and Media: this includes a touch typing course, learning to code, designing a website and creating an app.
The final compulsory module is Striking a Balance
There are also a number of Optional Modules, including:
- Entrepreneurship, Fundraising, PR and Events Management
- The Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award
- Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Qualification
- Cookery and Hospitality
- Lifesaving, Lifeguarding and Exercise Trainer Qualifications
- Finance and Investments
Benenden Headmistress Samantha Price said: “When large employers say there is a problem with the skill set of young people then I believe it is our job as school leaders to listen and to respond.
“The employment landscape is becoming increasingly competitive and young people need more than excellent academic qualifications to both secure a good job and then to thrive. Our programme is designed to support the latter.
“I hope other schools will see the value of offering such a programme and we would be delighted to work with other schools to help them develop something similar.”
The Programme is taught on Friday afternoons when traditionally there are no timetabled lessons for the Sxith Form - which allows for three hours a week to schedule activities.