How alumni support students in National Careers Week

According to government statistics, 1 there are 35 million jobs in the UK. From accountant to zoologist, there is a baffling array of careers for state school students to pursue.

They face important choices early. Should they aim straight for the job market? What about higher education, maybe an apprenticeship? Pick the wrong GCSEs in Year 9 and it could feel like some careers or universities may not be attainable. So the more advice they have to make considered decisions, the better.

Written by Beth Goddard, Director of Programmes

Too many students don’t have access to that essential advice. They can’t be what they can’t see. If they’ve never heard of a marine biologist, a radiographer, a paralegal, how can they know if they want to do the job?

This week, National Careers Week, state schools and colleges across the UK are linking the world of education with the world of employment and offering students insight into life beyond the school gates. Better informed students make better informed decisions.

Many of those schools and colleges working with Future First will draw on their networks and invite back former students who act as relatable role models broadening students’ jobs horizons, giving them the confidence to believe they can succeed and raising their aspiration to do so.

From Northumberland to the West Country, alumni will take part in assemblies and workshops on a range of topics from developing employability skills and coping with the difficult transition between school and higher education or work to insight into university life and how to apply to the jobs market.

It’s never too soon to start thinking about working life. Seaford Head School in East Sussex will run a ‘What’s My Line’ event for Year 7 students who will ask alumni questions about their skills to guess their career. In Blackpool, St George’s School, A Church of England Academy will hold World of Work workshops offering insight into skills needed in working life for their Year 7s.

Year 8s at City of Norwich School will focus on building resilience and the same age group at Witchford Village College in Cambridgeshire will take part in a ‘Meet the Professional’ speed networking session.

Higher up the age range, GCSE students at Eggar’s School in Hampshire will hear from alumni in a range of careers who will speak on engaging topics such as The Inquiring Mind, Pivotal Moments and Responsibility. Former students will run mock interviews to help with technique answering tricky questions, all important knowledge not on the curriculum.

Students from Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington will network with alumni for an International Women’s Day breakfast and City College Norwich has two days of workshops timetabled on the skills needed in the world of work.

More than 250,000 alumni have signed up with Future First to support current students at their former school. Everyone has skills and talents to offer, whether they’re in a profession like banking, finance or law or a vocation like plumbing catering or dog walking.

Some have experience from long standing careers to draw on, others are recent school leavers now in further education who offer advice on university life and finance and what degree to choose. Some alumni who feel they didn’t make the most of their time at school talk about how they wish they had done things differently.

Future First research shows that young people become increasingly worried about their working future as they progress through secondary school with 65% of 15-year-olds worrying about what job they will do as adults.

And they feel that hearing from former students who have shared the same background, perhaps had the same teachers, who have gone onto achieve a successful career is helpful with 75% of 15- year- olds feel it would be useful to hear from alumni in working life.

Independent schools have utilised their alumni networks for generations and state schools are catching up, although still lagging behind. While 67% of independent secondary school teachers used alumni to offer students access to careers and world of work opportunities, only 26% of state secondaries did so. 2

Good schools understand the stresses young people face and want students to leave as fully rounded adults prepared for life after school. But they are cash strapped and time is taken up teaching for exams. Alumni acting as volunteer role models offer a valuable free resource who can boost confidence and raise aspirations.

So this week, as schools like Bedlington Academy in Northumberland devote a week of assemblies for every year group to learning about the labour market, schools across the country will acknowledge the untapped potential of alumni volunteers who provide access to the world of work. By doing that, they will help ensure every young person has the chance to succeed in a career of their choice, regardless of their background.


1 Office for National Statistics Jan 2020
2 Teacher Tapp. 21 05 2019 . Total sample size was 2,787 teachers and 1,136 young people between 6 and 15.. The survey was carried out online.