St James’ Park ‘Building My Skills’ Programme

On Tuesday 2nd June an atmosphere of nervous energy and anticipation will build up at St James’ Park – but not for a football match on this occasion!

Over 400 students aged between 14 and 18 will arrive at the famous venue to be interviewed by over 50 business people from 25 businesses which are based throughout the North East.

The ‘really-real’ mock interviews are the culmination of this year’s ‘Building My Skills’ programme in the North East which has been delivered across every local authority area in both Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) by Esh Group in conjunction with business partners.

The 400+ students in the North East have each earned their opportunity to be interviewed by completing the Building My Skills programme which has run through the academic year as part of and complementary to their curriculum.

Darush Dodds, Added Value Manager, Esh Group explained:

“Every student who has the opportunity of a ‘really-real’ interview today has worked very hard to earn their place; they’ve shown complete commitment to the programme through 100% completion of their attendance portfolio, full attendance and excellent attitude. These are the qualities which employers want, and that is why ‘Building My Skills’ is proving so valuable as teachers prepare young people for the world of work.”

Janet Bridges, Principal of Castle View Enterprise Academy in Sunderland which has 35 students attending the Mock Interviews Day added:

“At Castle View we can see that Building My Skills delivers many benefits including much greater awareness of the ‘softer skills’ that employers look for and higher academic achievements. Since being involved with Building My Skills we have seen students take up many more internships and work experience placements and choose a much wider range of careers.

“In addition we’ve seen significant reduction in NEET figures across the school and our teachers have improved understanding of the job market which has been reflected as they have revised their lesson plans.”

Marc Millar, Sales Director of Ailantus Hotels which owns the Mecure George Washington Hotel at Washington, the Quality Hotel at Boldon and the Holiday Inn at Gosforth Park, said:

“For us becoming involved with Building My Skills is both an opportunity to help young people gain an insight into what employers are looking for and, most importantly, support teachers in helping them gain a good understanding of the job market and different business sectors as they work to prepare young people for their careers.”

Building My Skills (BMS) is free to the schools, businesses and local authorities taking part and provides years 9, 10 and 11 and 6th Form students with a rounded introduction to the world of work through regular engagement with the business world.

The year-long employability skills programme was originally formed in partnership with Esh Group’s colleagues at the North East offices of Ryder Architecture, Turner Townsend and Arup.

Year on year the workgroup has grown and now includes 69 local, national and global businesses from 15 different business sectors in delivery to secondary school students across the North of England and Southern Scotland.

Darush continued:

“For many of these students these interviews are the first opportunity they’ve had to talk about themselves and their hopes and ambitions to a total stranger.

“Students who have taken part in Building My Skills have told us that:

  • their confidence in gaining employment has increased
  • 68% learnt more when hearing from ‘real’ employers
  • before BMS 13% engaged with 1 employer for 1 hour per year, after BMS 100% engaged with 6 different employers for 6 hours per year
  • before BMS 41% had a CV, this increased to 82% after BMS – a 100% increase
  • over 80% took steps to improve their online appearance and
  • 71% arranged and completed work experience placement.”

In academic year 2014-15 Building My Skills has delivered over 40,000 learner engagement hours to over 6,900 students in 49 schools.

Delivery is scheduled as part of the school timetable, each delivered by a different business guest, and each student completes ‘checkpoints’ to create their employability portfolio. Students who fully complete the programme are offered a mock interview which often leads to promising students being offered work experience, apprenticeships and real jobs.

In 2014 95% of students participating attended every business session and 82% completed all work within their employability portfolio.

In 2014 Building My Skills was featured in ‘TimesED’ in 2014, won the ‘Going the Extra Mile’ award at CECA North East and was accredited with the National Big Tick for Education from Business in the Community in June 2014.


  • NORTHUMBERLAND Cramlington Learning Village
    King Edward VI School
  • NEWCASTLE Heaton Manor School
    St Cuthbert’s Catholic High School
  • NORTH TYNESIDE Churchill Community College
  • SOUTH TYNESIDE Mortimer Community College
    South Tyneside College
  • SUNDERLAND Castle View Enterprise Academy
    Farringdon Community Academy
    Hetton School
    Thornhill School Business and Enterprise College
  • HARTLEPOOL Manor College of Technology
  • DURHAM Framwellgate School Durham
    Sunnydale Campus – Greenfield Community College
  • DARLINGTON The Education Village Haughton Academy
  • STOCKTON Bishopsgarth School
  • REDCAR & CLEVELAND Huntcliff School


ARUP, Barclays, Capita, Darlington Cares, Deloitte, Esh Group, Gardiner Richardson, AXA, Mercure George Washington Hotel, Newcastle United Foundation, NRG, Ryder, Sintons, Speech Genius, Sunderland Foundation of light, Swinburne Maddison LLP, Teesside University, Tilly Bailey Irvine LLP and
Turner & Townsend.

Ref: 69909