Culture Shift is a local organisation with a fresh approach to careers advice through its Creative Café careers programme. Set up by Culture Shift in 2012 to bring creative professionals and students together, the idea is that it’s easier for students to open up and consider different career paths in an informal atmosphere, becoming more imaginative and aspirational in thinking about their own futures.

Originally designed to put students in touch with different creative professionals, the approach has proved so successful it soon expanded to connect young people with business volunteers from across all sectors. From 2014, both Hastings and Rother Local Authorities commissioned Creative Cafés focusing on the manufacturing sector, and food, hospitality and leisure. 

Further events were commissioned in 2016-2017 by Talent Match, an employability programme for 18-24 year olds. This year, Creative Cafés have been available to schools through Careers and Enterprise company funding with 12 events delivered to over 700 students in Hastings and a further 10 events delivered elsewhere in East Sussex.

Creative Cafés take place in large halls, often school halls, and occasionally cultural venues such as White Rock Theatre or De La Warr Pavilion. The space is set up cabaret style, with 8 or 9 young people to each professional; paper tablecloths to draw and write on, as well as refreshments, are all part of the Café vibe. 

The half-day event is structured around some short Q and A sessions at the start, where students move from table to table to find out about the different professionals in the room; prompt cards help when it’s hard to get a conversation going. Professionals then introduce themselves to the whole room before inviting young people to choose two career areas they would like to find out more about. 

For the last half of the event they do two practical challenges which relate to everyday work in their chosen areas. Activities have included songwriting, working out a cash-flow, a design challenge for a manufacturing company, a press release, designing a PR campaign, how to make a link between sport and mental health. Feedback from schools and students has been excellent. 

There is a new requirement from the DfE for schools to provide careers advice to pupils in line with the Gatsby Benchmarks (see chart below), prepared by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation; providing meaningful and multiple employer encounters is one of these guidelines. 

1 A stable careers programme
2 Learning from career and labour market information
3 Addressing the needs of each pupil
4 Linking curriculum learning to careers
5 Encounters with employers and employees
6 Experiences of workplaces
7 Encounters with further and higher 
8 Peducation personal guidance

Encounters with employers bring the world of work to life for young people and research shows that a young person who has four or more encounters with an employer is 86% less likely to be unemployed or not in education or training, and can earn up to 18% more during their career.

Creative Cafés will be running again in Hastings next academic year. If you are a professional person who could give up a morning to take part in a Creative Café please get in touch with Catherine Orbach at: [email protected]

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