SCHOOLCHILDREN have been inspired by the world of work as an academy’s placement programme reaches new heights.

With the help of local employers, 92 per cent of Year 10 pupils at Haughton Academy, Darlington, made the most of a week’s work experience, the highest figure for five years and ten per cent higher than in 2017.

For many of the pupils the placements proved to be a life-changing experience giving them new-found confidence, aspirations and life goals for the first time.

For 15-year-old Merlin Towers, his stint with global automotive engineering company Cummins cemented his hopes to work in aviation, either as a pilot or on the technical side.

“My father has worked for Cummins for the past 25 years and it is such a great company,” said Merlin, named after the UK’s smallest bird of prey and famous Rolls-Royce aircraft engine. “The only slight problem was that I’m 6ft 7in tall with size 15 feet so it wasn’t easy finding safety equipment that would fit.

“The work experience was so hands-on. Each day I was in a different department. First it was in the test technology centre, where they programme computers to test the engines. Then we designed a piston using CAD and I was with a team leader on the production line. I got to dismantle an engine which was amazing and the whole experience has inspired me.”

Fern, 14, spent the week with Darlington food company Jilly’s Catering. “I made and decorated cakes and learnt how to present them professionally,” said Fern. “With my new confidence I made some fruit scones to raise money for the charity Macmillan Cancer Support.

“It was so much fun that I have volunteered to work there in the future and I hope to go to Darlington College to study catering and then have my own business one day.”

Harvey Parkin spent the week with Epcot Cubicles. Its director David Taylor said: “Harvey was an absolute credit to Haughton Academy and he is a young man who should do well in life.

“He worked very well throughout the week. It must be quite daunting for a young man to come into a strange environment. But it was an absolute pleasure having Harvey working with our team, he would be welcome back any time and we wish him well for the future.”

Haughton Academy’s Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance Officer and Learning Mentor Suzanne Lyons said: “It has been a really successful year for work experience.

“It helps build a range of transferable skills for pupils and ensures the school attains national  benchmarks of best practice surrounding careers guidance within education settings. We have had some amazing feedback from pupils, parents and employers, ranging from big companies, like Cummins and EE, to schools, colleges, charities and hair salons.

“The pupils had to help arrange their own places too, so it has been an invaluable experience right from applying and handling setbacks to the work itself; it has given them a true insight into the world of work.”