On its website Culture Shift says: ‘…we put creativity to work to create positive change’ and youngsters involved in its Creative Cafes get a chance to experience that at first hand.
Hundreds of pupils from Hastings Academy, St Leonards Academy and the Ark Helenswood Academy have taken part in the Creative Cafe project, linking them up with professionals – and potential employers – across a huge range of industry sectors.
From insurance to publishing, song writing to nursing and a whole lot in between the Creative Cafe concept has been about breaking down barriers and exposing pupils from years eight, nine and ten to a positive experience that helps them find out more about the range of career options that await them when they leave education.
A total of 600 young people took part in the Creative Cafes and across all the events 74 professionals and potential employers were involved too.
The feedback from the youngsters has been incredibly positive with more than 90 per cent saying the enjoyed being involved, a similar proportion also telling organisers that their involvement had made them more aware of different career pathways and opportunities. Young people also believed taking part helps improve their life skills, developing creativity, communication and collaboration.
Those results are just what Catherine Orbach, one of the women behind the Creative Cafe project, wanted to hear.
The genesis of the Creative Café goes back to 2012, when with funding from Arts Council England, the programme sought to connect young people with professionals in the creative sector. In 2014, with support from Barclay’s Business in the Community lead in Hastings, Ian Noble, the model was developed to connect young people with employers working across all sectors.
Hastings Borough Council then got involved and asked Catherine and her colleagues at Culture Shift to arrange for young people to be given an introduction to local employers and expose them to the range of options that existed for them within the town. An early event was putting young people together with local engineering employers and that says Catherine was: “…a real, winner.”
But the events were much more than ‘chalk and talk’ from the outset the idea was to get the young people involved and as part of the event they had to undertake a creative challenge. Those creative challenges can cover a wide range of areas and at a recent Creative Cafe in St Leonards Academy challenges ranged from song writing to evaluating the cost and effectiveness of generating sustainable energy.
“The idea behind the creative challenge is that it provides the young people with an insight in to the work that the professional they are working with in involved in,” says Catherine.
The Creative Cafe concept also acknowledges that young people sometimes find it difficult to talk to people in positions of perceived seniority and it tackles that issue head on. Each professional attending a Creative Cafe event will work with groups of eight young people who are encouraged to ask questions and initiate conversation.
Just incase they have problems kicking things off there are cards provided with some generic questions to get the ball rolling and at the recent St Leonards Academy event that’s exactly what happened and once conversations got started they developed a life of their own and the young people’s questions flowed.
Up until now the Creative Cafes have been half day projects and typically each group of pupils gets to spend time with two of the professionals who are there but the feedback Catherine has been getting shows that the youngsters would like to have more time and to be able to meet, and work with, a wider range of professionals at each event.
Over six years Culture Shift has run 70 events and ten of those have been in Hastings in the last six months. The funding for these last events, although at the discretion of the schools, has been provided through the Careers and Enterprise Company that invested £100,000 in Hastings and St Leonards allowing schools to choose what they see as the best projects to link their pupils up with the world of work.
According to Catherine one of the great successes of the Creative Cafe idea is that they have helped build young people’s confidence because the Cafes have put young people together with potential employers in a more comfortable and less formal setting than might be normal and that is why the secondary school pupils are getting so much from it while at the same time have great respect for the time and commitment that the volunteers are giving to make the Creative Cafes happen.