Employability Initiative

Both of the companies are taking part in the school’s Wider Achievement Employability Initiative, an innovative new programme designed to help pupils into employment.

John Penman is the Marketing and Sales Director of Fifab, one of the UK’s most advanced manufacturers of precision sheet-metalwork, electro-mechanical assemblies and precision machined components, and also one of the most successful sub-contract manufacturing companies. Fifab invest heavily in training and are a long term supporter of apprenticeships in Fife. John is also chairman of Impact 21 (formerly Business Gateway Fife) and has 20 years experience in the manufacturing industry.

During his talk, the former Lochgelly pupil gave a thought provoking story of how he had worked for over 20 years in manufacturing, going from an apprentice to his current role of Sales and Marketing Director of Fifab.

He talked about working hard and taking opportunities, and reminded pupils that competition for jobs is hard and that learning the correct skills to apply for jobs would make a huge difference to their success or failure.

Frankie Hodge, Operations Director of Recycle Fife, which is based in Cartmore Industrial Estate in Lochgelly, spoke to pupils about the operations at Recycle Fife and his own personal journey to success with rugged honesty and evident streetwise knowledge.

Frankie said, “I was delighted to be invited to be a guest speaker at Lochgelly High School as part of its Wider Achievement Employability Initiative.

“The remit of my talk was to speak to pupils about the different types of skills and training they need in order to successfully apply for jobs and take part in interviews, and how Recycle Fife is offering to help them.

“As part of my talk, I explained to pupils how I had turned my life around following some wrong choices I made, and how I managed to overcome many challenges, including a lack of skills, homelessness, becoming a single parent, and long term unemployment, and that as a result of turning my life around, along with my partner, I co-founded one of the most successful social enterprises in Fife.”

A social enterprise is a business with social aims, which effectively means that all income generated through its commercial activities, is reinvested back into the enterprise to enable it to fulfil its social objectives.

He added, “I set up Recycle Fife with two main aims, one of which is to stop waste going to landfill which we do through by providing recycling services including skip hire, and the other is to create employment, training placements and volunteering opportunities, particularly for those who are deemed as furthest from the jobs market.

“Since we started over nine years ago, we have been able to create 138 jobs, of which over 70% were offered to people who had real problems getting their feet on the employment ladder. Not all these staff are still with us as some have moved on to bigger and better jobs.

“We see Recycle Fife as a stepping-stone. One of our objectives is to give young people a chance to work with us, gain real work experience and learn employability skills to help them get into meaningful employment”.

Frankie concluded, “Recycle Fife has been asked to be a partner as part of the project with Lochgelly High School and we are delighted to be able to offer real work experience to the pupils.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity that they have here, especially with the support of the teachers , school and local businesses behind them to give them as much of an advantage as possible in their quest for employment. All the team at Recycle Fife are looking forward to taking part.”

The pupils were clearly engaged by the success stories of the speakers and were keen to ask further questions about both their stories and the placement opportunities that are available at both Fifab and Recycle Fife.

Sixth year pupil, Bobby O’Hagan, said, “The employability initiative has been very good for us as a school because it’s helping us by showing what employers look for in employees. After the talk Frankie Hodge and John Penman gave I had a chat with them and they said I could go to Fi-Fab or Recycle Fife any time I wanted. They were very encouraging and were happy to help.”

Programme leader Ray Fernie added his thanks to Fifab and Recycle Fife, “John Penman has been a great supporter of Lochgelly High School over the years and has endeavoured to be actively involved in initiatives which help our young people be successful.

“Fifab’s first contact with the school was through a phone call asking why there were no pupils from Lochgelly on their workforce.

“Their next response was to organise a visit to talk with our pupils. Little did we know at the time that MD Archie Smith and John would appear on our doorstep half an hour later to deliver their pitch to a captive audience. From that point on Lochgelly High School has reaped the rewards of this unique relationship with Fifab.”