A Sutton Coldfield A-level student with her sights set on a career in the legal world was given first-hand experience of working at one of Birmingham's leading law firms as part of a skills training initiative.
Creating Opportunities for 16-19 Year Olds, a project funded by Advantage West Midlands and managed by the Centre of Business in Excellence in Birmingham (CBEB), arranged for Jeskirat Kaur Basatia, a student at Sutton Coldfield Grammar School for Girls, to spend a week working with staff at Davisons Solicitors.
Sixteen-year-old Jeskirat's placement at the Davisons Solicitors offices in Calthorpe Road, Edgbaston, was the 100th successful work experience placement secured by CBEB at firms in the city's growing business and professional services sector.
The project plans to find placements for a further 900 students over the course of the programme, which is due to be completed by March 2008.
The aim of the project is raise the aspirations of the region's future workforce by creating vocational opportunities for 16 to 19 year olds whilst meeting the needs and demands of the business sector.
As well as work experience for students, the CBEB project also offers teaching staff the chance to engage with businesses and find out what kind of training courses they need. This should also enable colleges to make sure they are providing the right mix of training.
Claire Holden, specialist business and professional services cluster manager at Advantage West Midlands, said: "As an increasing proportion of young people are opting for a degree, there has been a real decline in the number of people entering the professions straight from school or college.
"There are some really good job opportunities at this kind of level, such as legal executive, accounting technician or legal secretary, but businesses are finding these positions harder to fill. It has been said that it is much easier to recruit a trained lawyer than it is a legal secretary these days – but this project is now addressing the problem."
Gary Davison, of Davisons Solicitors, said: "It was a delight to have Jeskirat working with us for the week. She was enthusiastic, well organised and well motivated and displayed a variety of multi-tasking skills.
"The legal profession is a growing sector in Birmingham. I started the Davisons company in 1985, opening a branch at Weoley Castle. It now has five branches and employs over 60 people.
"The profession needs bright and talented people like Jeskirat, and the CBEB initiative is now playing an important role in getting the message across to teenage school-leavers that there are many rewarding career prospects available if you choose not to go to university."
Beverley McGillycuddy, CBEB manager, said: "It is very important that young people are aware of career opportunities .
"We are working closely with schools and local employers to allow young people, particularly from minority ethnic backgrounds, to experience working within the sector whilst still in full-time education."