We look at the ever-growing pressures that young people face as they head towards exam season.

Exam season is well under way and with it, the ever-growing pressure that these are life-defining moments. In 2018, Childline delivered 3,135 counselling sessions on exam stress to children as young as 12. One teenage boy said, “I think I'm going to fail my GCSEs and that makes me so worried for the future. What if I can't get a job anywhere?”

It’s a common and scary question, but even worse – it’s completely misguided. The truth is that whatever happens during GCSEs, no future is ruled out. As the Employability Manager for Dallaglio RugbyWorks, it’s something I can say with confidence.

Alternative Provision (AP) is often a tough environment, where GCSE results can be the least of a student’s worries. Crime, poverty, domestic violence and substance abuse are all things our young people encounter on a regular basis. Consequently, a student in AP has less than a 3% chance of achieving 5 good GCSEs.

But does that mean that our young people should give up on the future they want? Absolutely not – we exist to prove this wrong and do so time and time again. But how do we do it?

Sport is an incredible tool to develop skills and abilities that all employers are looking for: Teamwork, leadership, confidence, respect and resilience amongst others.
Our coaches work with their students on a weekly basis, using games and activities that allow develop key ‘work-ready’ behaviours: Autonomy, attitude, communication, core-thinking skills and reliability.
It’s important for our young people to remember that businesses hire people, not their exam grades. While we don’t sit exams in these soft skills, they are always key factors for a prospective employer, apprentice provider or College.

Hard Skills:
Soft skills are crucial, but they’re only one piece of the puzzle. Our coaches deliver workshops on CV writing and interview skills; there’s no substitute for practice and knowledge in these two crucial gateways. Whether it’s how to write a good CV, how to respond in an interview, we put great emphasis on the individual’s strengths and talents.
It always blows me away to hear, for example, that a student has a YouTube channel with thousands of followers, ran a charity event at school or codes and doesn’t mention it on their CV or in an interview.

Career Taster Days:
We’re lucky to have a wide range of partner organisations who open their doors to our students on to give them a feel for the workplace and, more importantly, a chance to learn from employers themselves what it takes to work for them. Recent research shows that these encounters with employers are perhaps the single most important thing in helping young people move into employment when they finish school.
Learning about different workplaces arms our students with the knowledge to make an informed decision, not necessarily about their whole future, but certainly about what would be a good next step.

Above all, they make clear the importance of soft-skills, networking and a desire to learn and grow, rather than an immaculate academic record.

Final Thoughts:
To be clear, there’s no doubt that doing well in GCSEs is important - the pressure to perform isn’t there for nothing. But it’s important for our young people to remember that GCSEs can only direct, never define their future.

At RugbyWorks we work with students who aren’t traditional learners that statistically struggle to achieve what their peers in mainstream schools do.
It’s often said that half of the jobs that will be available in 2030 don’t even exist now. The labour market is changing all the time. Whenever I meet with our business partners, it’s clear that focus is shifting away from traditional academic requirements to a more holistic view of candidates as people, not academic transcripts.

For this reason, we at RugbyWorks emphasise that taking stock of who you are, what skills you have and seeking the advice of as many people as possible is just as valuable as a perfect set of GCSE results.

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