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Leslie Kelling

Leslie Kelling Project Coordinator

Be Inspired Series

Liz Lemon

Programme Manager
Work Inspiration

On secondment from the Northern Bank, which sees the schoolchildren of today as the employees, managers and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

What does your job involve?

The Work Inspiration Campaign is a national business-led movement to improve the quality of work experience on offer for 15 and 16 year olds. Convened by Business in the Community and supported by the CBI, its aim is to mobilise businesses to turn work experience for young people into work inspiration. I have been seconded from Northern Bank to launch the campaign in Northern Ireland.

Why do you feel so strongly about what you are doing?

Work experience is the first taste of work for a young person, they need to be inspired about the world of work and so these experiences must be as positive and meaningful as possible. Schools and colleges work hard to connect the classroom to the world of work but they cannot do it alone. The world of business is changing so fast that it is impossible for them to keep up. As employers, there is so much more that we can do to help.

What do you find rewarding about this role and what's the biggest challenge?

This role is rewarding because it has so much potential. We want to raise awareness and create a better understanding of what can be done to make young people's first experience of work more meaningful and relevant and ultimately more useful, in terms of deciding what they want to do upon leaving school. By looking internally at current work placement offerings, businesses have the ability to redefine their work experience programmes and in doing so raise the employability skills of young people, raise their career aspirations and underpin the pipeline of new recruits for business. This is the challenge.

What's next for Work Inspiration?

A launch an event called The Big Conversation and will bring together business leaders and young people to talk one to one about their hopes and dreams, and what they want to do and how they can be inspired by the world of work.

To whom is the Big Conversation aimed?

The Big Conversation will kick start the Work Inspiration campaign and is aimed at all employers regardless of size, across Northern Ireland.

Why is this important in Northern Ireland?

Each academic year we have approximately 20,000 young people entitled to a work experience placement. While the exact figure is unknown, it is thought that less than half of these actually take place.

And even the ones that do take place are not always as meaningful as they could be. It is important in Northern Ireland as we must grow and retain a skilled, enthusiastic workforce.

The 15 and 16 year olds of today will be the employees, managers and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

What happens after the Big Conversation?

That's when the work really starts, our aim is to deliver substantially more relevant and meaningful opportunities to support our young people in Northern Ireland as they begin their transition from education to work.

What do you see as the business benefit for Northern Bank by allowing you to be on secondment?

Northern Bank aims to attract and retain the best qualified and best performing employees.
It really works hard to create an environment where employees are valued and supported.
Employee welfare, satisfaction, opportunities and engagement are very important.

They really are the heart of the business -- connecting with customers and the local community. In the few months that I have been on secondment I already feel that I have developed new skills and I am learning all the time from people not in the banking field.

What are your interests and hobbies?

I love cooking, entertaining, eating out, all things food related and I'm a recent convert to 'growing your own'. I suppose I am a bit of a foodie in a very amateurish way.

If you could give a 15 or 16-year-old a piece of career advice, what would it be?

Adopt a 'can do' positive attitude and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.

Who inspires you most in life or your career?

I come across people everyday who inspire me, for many different reasons. Sadly, both of my parents are now gone, but the foundation they gave me continues to be an inspiration.
My husband and children are also my inspiration.

I want to be the best I can be, being a good role model and hence completing the circle.

Tell me something quirky about yourself

I love old black and white movies, especially Bette Davis. There are great characters and witty dialogue. They're a real joy.

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