How do you find a fulfilling career and thrive at work in a post-Covid world?

They are questions that A-level students at one Weymouth school have tackled in recent weeks with the help of a local GP.

With science and health dominating headlines over the last year, the focus of the Aspirations Employability Diploma, launched for the first time this year for teenagers at Budmouth Academy, has been the NHS.

A key aim of the programme is to provide students with an insight into the world of work and resulted in teenager Briony-Mai Green, securing her first job.

The course also involved GP Claire Hombersley who has a practice in nearby Swanage and has been involved in the Dorset research trials for the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine.  

Dr Hombersley took part in a virtual Q&A and told students qualifications alone are no longer enough to secure a job and the ability to demonstrate people skills and teamwork are vital when it comes to impressing employers.

Dr Claire Hombersley

Keen to banish the perception that GPs spend the majority of their time dealing with patients who have coughs and colds, Dr Hombersley discussed her medical research work.

She said: ‘’I very much enjoyed my Q&A with the students at Budmouth Academy. It was a great opportunity to potentially inspire them to consider a career in the medical field and to realise how varied a GP’s role can be. For the last 10 years I have been involved in medical trials working with various universities including those based in Bristol, Aberdeen and London. Some of the research has been for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and more recently I have been involved in the Dorset research hub for the Novavax vaccine trial.’’

Dr Hombersley revealed the ability to work well within a team is as important to her as A grades when recruiting and said: ‘’When I’m looking to employ somebody, it’s important for me to know that they will get on with a team of people – it’s not just about the A grades. We always look at the back pages of a CV to see what interests a candidate has and if they can get on with other people.’’

It is the importance of understanding these soft skills that is at the heart of the Aspirations Employability Diploma. The programme is unique to Budmouth Academy and other schools in the Aspirations Academies Trust.

The NHS project saw A-level students working in teams of four or five and focusing their attention on a key question about the country’s healthcare system.

Briony-Mai Green

For the group which included student Briony-Mai Green, 17, the question was ‘what is the long and short term effect of Covid on the NHS?’

Briony-Mai revealed she managed to land her first job working at McDonald’s as a result of all she learned during her weeks spent studying for the diploma.

She explained: ‘’I found the whole experience eye-opening about the world of work and what’s expected. I realised I didn’t have the right vocabulary to talk about my skills and the qualities that make me employable and now I do.

”I enjoyed the research work that I had to undertake and the whole experience has left me feeling more motivated. It also helped me to get my first job at McDonald’s as I was much more confident about talking about my skills and in particular teamwork.’’