December 2017

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It’s our sixth year partnering with law firm Ashurst to help raise the career aspirations of Year 6 students at Bonner Primary School in East London. The First Steps Programme has been a huge success. 390 students have taken part so far and, on average, their confidence in getting a job that interests them in the future has risen by 70%.

This year our expert team of facilitators worked with a class of students and volunteers from Ashurst over five aspiration raising days. We’ve designed these sessions to build students’ awareness of the types of jobs they might want to do in the future and how they could access them, as well as to start building their confidence and skills ready to excel in their academic and working lives.

One event saw the Year 6s become small businesses tasked with creating a prototype for a new toy. The group showed fantastic creativity and teamwork, presenting creations ranging from rocket ships and aliens to light-up reading glasses and wireless game controllers. In a ‘Dragons Den’ style task the students then pitched to a panel of Ashurst volunteers who decided which business to invest in.

The Department for Education’s new careers strategy highlights the importance of employer interactions at primary school, to help young people from an early age connect what they learn at school to jobs they might do in the future. It suggests students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds who may lack exposure to positive role models, should be enabled to spend more time with employers throughout their education. With this in mind, we are working on developing our programme for primary aged children, helping to broaden their horizons at this crucial early stage through engaging interactions with alumni.

Future First is delighted to be partnering with two National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) groups in Sussex and East Anglia to bring alumni networks to 44 schools in these areas.

NCOP aims to support the most disadvantaged young people in target wards in England to progress into higher education, doubling the number that do so by 2020.  The programme consists of 29 regional consortia which are undertaking outreach activity in areas where the higher education participation of young people is both low and much lower than expected based on GCSE-level attainment.

Future First’s work with the Sussex Learning Network and Network for East Anglian Collaborative Outreach (neaco) will see disadvantaged students in schools in these areas hearing from alumni role models about the many opportunities higher education can bring, opening their eyes to a world beyond their own.

Tom Levinson, Project Manager for neaco, said, “We are delighted to be working with Future First to help show young people the array of higher education options available to them. A network of past pupils, with their higher education experience, is a valuable way to engage the region’s young people and motivate them to take their education further.”

Christine Gilbert, Future First’s Executive Chair said, “We are delighted to be supporting NEACO’s important work in encouraging more young people in the area to benefit from the many opportunities higher education can bring. Future First helps schools and colleges build and use a network of their former students in active support of the current generation. Alumni are unique because of their connection with current students. The young people in these schools will truly benefit from working with former students, who will show them what’s possible from a future in higher education and open their eyes to a world beyond their own.”

More information on NCOP and pupil targeting can be found at

The Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) has provided funding to schools in Oldham, Blackpool, Scarborough, Norwich, Derby and West Somerset, giving them the opportunity to select the services that will work best in their communities to address identified gaps in careers and enterprise activity. It was good to see Future First chosen by several schools in all six areas as the organisation they were most keen to work with. 27 schools and colleges opted for Future First and we are now supporting each of them to establish their own alumni network.

Stephen Fry, a former student of one of the participating colleges, gave enthusiastic support for our work:

‘As a proud alumnus myself of Norwich City College I am so happy to support the Future First initiative. People come from all over the region to take advantage of what the college has to offer in terms of its unique breadth and depth of courses, and it is only right that the bond that forms between students and the institution itself should be strengthened and alumni get the chance to take advantage of the good fortune and achievements of fellow students.’  

We’ve got off to a great start this term in each of the six regions. We’ve reached 730 students so far through our interactive ‘World of Work Days’ where they hear directly from alumni about a range of jobs. This helps them to think creatively about the options which are open to them. Some highlights include:

  • Careers Fair at Scalby School, Scarborough. Six alumni took part in a speed networking event with Year 8s to launch their GCSE options decision-making process. Watch ITV’s coverage of the event.
  • Employer networking brunch at Oldham Sixth Form College, Oldham. Former students now in jobs with recruitment responsibilities went back to school to show students how to build their confidence and skills in preparation for their first job applications.
  • World of Work Days at City of Norwich School and Open Academy Sixth Form, Norwich. At Open Academy Sixth Form, Year 10 students spent the day working with their alumni communities developing ‘soft skills’ like communication, confidence speaking in groups and belief in what they can go on to achieve. Alumni helped City of Norwich School Year 10s identify the transferable skills they are gaining from school that they can apply in the world of work.
  • World of Work Day at Allestree Woodlands School, Derby. 210 Year 11 students took part in events with former students in a variety of jobs from a greeting card designer to an engineer. The group learnt to identify their skills and strengths in preparation for college and apprenticeship applications.

Students told us:

‘[working with alumni] made me feel more confident about the job I would like to choose’

  • Scalby School student, Year 8

‘I now know how to structure my CV.’

  • Allestree Woodlands School student, Year 11

We’re really looking forward to continuing our support next year for all of the opportunity area schools and colleges, building alumni communities that can support their students for generations to come.