23 November 2017

Ormiston Forge Academy, Cradley Heath, tells its story

"From my point of view, as Careers Advisor, it’s been really useful to link up with former students to share information on career and education pathways."

Beverley Evans, Careers Advisor at Ormiston Forge Academy

At Ormiston Forge Academy, we make sure all of our students have a careers interview in Year 11 and that they get lots of support with thinking about their futures. We have a rising number of students who go on to Higher Education. At the moment, around 70 students apply to university and higher apprenticeships. This year, one student went on to do a degree level apprenticeship in Surveying, which is great as they’re quite competitive. We’re planning on inviting him to come back and talk to current students about his experience in the future.

I first started thinking about how I could work with our former students when we had a launch meeting in school to discuss how our alumni community could benefit students. The first event we arranged for Future First to run at the school was a Feeding Britain’s Future workshop, in which a range of employers from the grocery industry came in to work with Year 12s. The volunteers were great and the session really helped open students’ eyes to all sorts of careers they’d never even heard of.

After that, I thought it would be great to start inviting our ex-students back to the school for events like this and we’ve built up from there. From my point of view, as Careers Advisor, it’s been really useful to link up with former students to share information on career and education pathways.

Towards the end of the summer term we ran two events involving former students. Our Alumni Programme Officer helped us to use the alumni portal to find a range of volunteers to come in and speak to our high ability Year 7 and Year 8 students.  A group of former students, including a social worker, a student nurse, an actor and an artist came along with a prop related to their job. Students had to guess what jobs they did and then at the end I asked the alumni to reveal their careers. We gave the younger students some prizes for their guesses! The former students shared their experiences with small groups of students who came with a list of questions to ask. It was brilliant! The students were really switched on, motivated and eager to get involved.  It really helped with communication and team work skills for the pupils. Those sorts of soft skills are really important for any interview, whether it’s for university or a part time job.

We ran another event on the same day as part of our annual Higher Education week for Year 12s. The students were taken off timetable and encouraged to think about their future options. They got the chance to meet employers and learn more about university life, with sessions on things like student finance.  We invited a variety of employers and alumni to come along and speak to students in a carousel setting, a bit like speed dating!  We had lots of former students coming in and out throughout the day. It was great for students to hear about where the former students’ qualifications had taken them. Involving alumni in something we already have going on in school worked really well. It’s always nice for young people to meet former students from their school and find out about their progress and pathway. I think it’s so motivational, as their advice is instantly relatable. Seeing that someone from their school has gone on to do something makes them think, ‘I can do that as well’.

I think, for the Year 12s, meeting former students will have an impact on them applying to university or thinking more in detail about their future. I hope the process improves the number of students considering university, a foundation degree or a higher level apprenticeship.

I’ll definitely involve alumni in this event next year and we’re also going to invite them to our Careers Fair in February.