Berni Yates

Outreach Practitioner

What do you do? 

I help students understand the different avenues they can study and make sure that young people know about the variety of careers there are available across all of CSM’s courses. 

We target schools with higher percentages of free school meals or lower income; another area we look at are students who are in the first generation within their family to go to university. 

I work with schools from year 10 to 13 as well as with undergraduates. We run a series of programmes and interventions at community hubs, CSM and in schools. 

I work a lot with what I call ‘Community Anchors’ who maintain relationships with the schools that we work with. I have one in Islington, one in Camden and one in Tower Hamlets.  I also work a lot with Student Ambassadors. They are like gold dust - they often go into schools and show their work and talk to the departments and the students – especially for courses that aren’t particularly well known about. 

So what does one of your programmes entail? 

When the students get to year 13 and are ready to apply to foundation they do a course with us called Insights. The students come every Friday, starting from September and they work with foundation tutors and myself. 

We set a very open project, which allows students to really get to grips with artistic processes. It’s introducing the students to the teaching and learning values we have here at CSM whilst also giving them time to explore different areas. 

What is a favourite part of your job? 

I really like the Insights programme. It is just seeing people’s lives change… well actually, I love all of them. 

Just in the summer, we did a programme with a community centre in Euston. We did a film, fashion and photography project. For the fashion project some students came to CSM where we gave the students 1,000 white shirts. There was no brief; they could do whatever they wanted with them. 

The Student Ambassadors who were running the course said that you wouldn’t have believed the difference between the way the students started to work compared to when they first came here. Once they had seen how the people were working at CSM they realised that they could do whatever they wanted. 

The Student Ambassador said “Berni, their lives were completely changed!” One of the mother’s of the students actually became very interested in applying to a BTEC in Fashion too! So you know, things like that are amazing! 

What are some of the biggest challenges you often see your students come across? 

One of the big challenges is self-directed work and being independent and confident in it. A lot of what is embedded in our programmes is context, research and jargon busting. 

It’s about encouraging people’s confidence in speaking about their own work in their own way. A lot of what we do is talking about your work and critiquing each others work because that’s what you have to do if you get onto foundation and progress. 

It’s about confidence really and raising aspirations, that is the biggest part of our work. 

If you could give any perspective and current Outreach Students some advice, what would it be? 

I think that a lot of it is just getting the students to feel confident about who they are. They all come from these amazing diaspora of families and they have an incredible cultural capital within themselves and that should be celebrated. I tell them, all the other students from all around the world come to London to meet people like you. They think you are cool and they want to be like you. 

Another thing is to avoid the “I didn’t do art so I can’t go to art college, I did graphics so I can’t draw” attitude. My strap line is; if you can write, you can draw. We can all draw; it’s a way of communicating. 

Some of us are fashion illustration, some of us are spatial designers, some of us work on CAD, it all about understanding the different systems. You are on a voyage of discovery here, even when you get into your undergraduate course, it is a whole education. 

What do your students end up doing? 

Well, Rahemur Rahman from Menswear, who I have known for years, has just left and he has gone to work at Luis Vuitton. He also became one of our Student Ambassadors; he was absolutely brilliant because he could talk to the students about where he has been and how he did it. 

Then there is Tasnim Begum, she is about to do her work experience at JW Anderson which is brilliant, in fact she also worked as a Student Ambassador for us, she has changed people’s lives. Another example is Serhan, he came through Outreach and he is a fantastic, he has a great job in Peckham at the moment and he wants to come back and do his masters. 

They all come and see me and knock on my window. It’s brilliant, it means I know a lot of the students across all of the courses. It’s being familiar with members of staff. Every now and again students will ask me if I could hold a tutorial and I always make time for them.