Investing in the Future

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Project: Competing for extended work experience
Target Group: Year 12
Partnership: Calico Homes / Thomas Whitham Sixth Form
Cluster: Burnley, North West

Impacts and outcomes

  • A large group of students experienced the reality of the competitive process of applying for a job and have learnt techniques to improve their applications in future
  • Students have completed a long-term meaningful work placement, with tangible project outcomes that are being used in industry
  • All participants have gained transferrable skills, increased their employability and confidence in a workplace environment; a great grounding for their future careers
  • Calico benefitted from good quality research data and is using the students’ recommendations to review Customer Service and HR procedures

Context & Objectives

The work experience programme at Calico really helped me develop my understanding of the business-related environment I found myself working in.

- Student,
Thomas Whitham Sixth Form
Calico Homes comprises of Calico Homes Limited (a 4,500 property Housing Association in Pennine Lancashire) and subsidiary companies Calico Enterprise Limited (providing services to help people live independently and find employment) and ELWRA Limited (providing services to people experiencing domestic violence). Its vision is to provide quality services that make a difference to the quality of life of the residents and the wider communities in which it works.

Thomas Whitham Sixth Form is one of very few 16-19 schools in the country and works collaboratively with its five partner secondary schools in Burnley. It forms part of the Burnley Campus Social Enterprise project which comprises a Primary School and Primary Special School, Nursery School Children’s Centre, Public Library and Faith Centre and delivers the Extended Schools agenda with the campus at the heart of the community. The sixth form is committed to raising achievement and aspirations in a socially and economically disadvantaged community whilst developing social and community cohesion across the area.

The relationship began in 2009 with an initial focus on developing the employability of the students on their departure from the Sixth Form.


Calico offered three Year 12 students a five month extended work experience placement. The first step was a presentation to 60 students on the positions available. This led to workshops on completing application forms and interview techniques for the 25 students who were interested in applying. Following shortlisting, seven students were interviewed for the posts and three were appointed in the HR and Customer Service Departments spending a half day per week working on real practical research projects:

  • Recruitment review

  • Customer satisfaction review

  • Call centre opening times review

This was the first time such research had been undertaken at Calico and the results have been carefully analysed to inform policies and procedures. Next Steps Students attended an assembly to promote this year’s scheme and plans are in place to repeat for years to come.

“The internship scheme has clearly provided benefits to both Calico and all the students involved in the process. Staff at Calico who worked with the students greatly enjoyed interacting with them and loved the enthusiasm they brought to their work. The work undertaken by the students provided a tangible benefit to the company and it wasn't simply a case of them carrying out token tasks which is too often the case with many other work experience schemes.” Stuart Wright, Assistant HR Officer, Calico Homes