Organizing the Arrow work-readiness workshops

By Azraa Adjumain

Said Harriet Beecher Stowe,  –

Harriet Beecher Stowe said “Never give up for that is just the place and time the tide will turn” and that is what organizing these workshops taught me – the perseverance to never give up and this is my experience!

The ‘Arrow’ work-readiness workshop series is aimed at inspiring the school leavers and undergraduates of our Nation to be a part of the John Keells Group. With a history of over 7 years Arrow 2018 was held for the 8th consecutive year in 2018 and was a huge success with 230 participants at school leaver and undergraduate levels.

The biggest achievement of this being conducting the school leavers workshop which did not take place for the past two years due to low participation. This was not an easy task. The biggest challenge was figuring out how to reach out to students who will be sitting for A/L’s in August 2018. When A/L’s is what matters to them the most will they actually worry about what is in store for them after school. In Late May 2018 we decided to reach out to 45 schools in and around Colombo, Kandy, Galle and Jaffna. However postal strikes during this period did not turn things in our favor. By the time the letter reached the schools students had already left on their study leaves. Even at this point I was determined not to give up.

Taking into consideration the feedback received from the workshops last year we revamped the programme adding fun group activities and a Career Chat with a member of our senior management. This revamped programme is what we wanted to highlight. Along with the team at Corporate Communications I designed and even revamped the e-flyers giving them a whole new fresh look focusing on each workshop separately for social media and for the first time posting info about the workshops on the JKH Instagram profile as well, highlighting the senior management who would be present. The response for this was very positive we received a total of 343 applications.

The next big challenge was to deliver what was promised. Each day of the workshops seemed new because I was meeting people from different levels of education. Their level of focus and energy was different. The way I moderated the each workshop on each day had to change based on their reactions. The school leavers batch kept me constantly on my toes with fresh minds and full of energy they were one enthusiastic bunch. They were ready to participate in any activity and always asked questions which was completely unexpected for example, after the presentation on CSR at John Keells Group was done, one of the school leavers wanted to know how these CSR projects are funded!

This batch made new friends on this day it was quite visible by how they stayed back after the end of the workshop for around half an hour taking pictures and exchanging numbers with a hope of maintaining these friendships they’ve made. At that point, I new we had got it right!

The energy transition from school leavers to the undergraduates was quite a contrast as I was expecting a buildup of energy and active participation. The undergraduates batch seemed to be more focused knew exactly what they wanted and why they participated. But I had to keep my energy going because I wanted them to actively engage. However these batches seemed to follow my instructions to the point as if they knew the structure of a workshop so they didn’t have many questions nor did I have to give them step by step instructions!

The highlight of these workshops for me would be the activities because that is when I got to engage with the students. Their level of creativity and strategic thinking was unimaginable. We repeated the same activities on all the four days since a person didn’t repeat a workshop. We had a group quiz where they had to display the right answer out of a range of answers to the questions displayed. The other activity was building the tallest balloon tower. Both activities required their own skills and strategies. The tallest Balloon tower and the most creative was inevitably from STEM undergraduates the team consisted of a group of Engineers.

There were times when I felt as if I couldn’t handle it anymore because it was extremely tedious. My biggest force of motivation during these times were those students who travelled from areas as far as Kandy, Batticaloa, Nuwara Eliya, Hambanthota, Anuradhapura as early as 3 AM by train! Their dedication and commitment towards learning is what made me wake up an hour earlier than usual and get to the venue everyday.

If there is one major thing that I have learned from my experience with Arrow is to never give up hard work, commitment and perseverance will definitely pave the way to success!