Justin Smith, CEO at Future First, talks about his appearances on LBC and Talk Radio during National Careers Week.
Last week was National Careers Week and our office was eerily quiet as staff whizzed up and down the country delivering school workshops and assemblies where alumni joined students to talk about their future life chances.
I was out too giving interviews on Future First’s work in a thousand state schools and colleges on national radio, LBC with Iain Dale and Talk Radio with Mike Graham.
Iain, a state school student himself, had only been back to his former school once to talk to current students, but had been into other schools and was overwhelmed by the impact of his visits.
Teachers reported students found him inspirational and wanted to do what he did just as a result of hearing him talk.
That motivation is something I see replicated every day observing Future First’s in-school events. Students cannot be what they cannot see and for too many, their experience of jobs is limited to personal experience. Opening their eyes to the vast range of opportunities out there is crucial.
I said to Iain that you don’t have to live a life that Steven Spielberg or Kathryn Bigelow wants to make into a film to have something to offer. Everyone has a story that could change the direction of a young person’s life. There are professionals in banking, law and medicine among the 250,000 alumni signed up to Future First’s network as well as photographers, plumbers, even someone who selects the avocados for a national supermarket chain. They all have skills, talents and experience to offer.
Iain and I reminisced about what careers advice was like in our day. For me, it was limited to a couple of posters falling off a wall and Iain recalled the days when you went down the mines if your family worked in the pits, or the docks, if they were on the ships.
That has changed, but Future First wants to significantly accelerate that change to properly address the poverty of aspiration where students have additional barriers to achieving success.
Onto Mike Graham, who was interested in our recent polling showing 65% of 15-year- olds worry about their future career. That’s a lot of young people feeling stressed about their future working life.
Mike, another state school student, said he‘d been told that, if he didn’t get 5 “O” levels, his only option was to be a dustman. Look how he proved them wrong!
We discussed how parents and family friends can be vital in motivating and supporting young people with their careers choice, but too many young people don’t have access to that support and the opportunity to talk to relatable role models like alumni who can offer broader advice and open up far wider work horizons is crucial.
Mike remarked that students have to make careers decisions early, often before they have any idea what job they want to pursue. Make the wrong GCSE choices and certain A levels may be ruled out…and then specific careers. Future First proves that alumni going into schools and talking to students about different career paths and how they achieved them can be invaluable. Careers are not linear, life throws up different routes, there will be set backs and opportunities and students have to seize chances that come their way.
Mike asked about vocational training and we discussed the insight days Future First runs with firms such as lawyers Taylor Wessing and accountants KPMG where students interested in those fields can spend time with people who work in that environment and find out more about what’s involved.
So thanks to Iain and Mike for their interest in Future First, our staff team for a great careers week, to all our schools round the country who rallied alumni last week and to the former students themselves who went back to the classroom to prove to young people they can succeed in a career of their choice, regardless of their background.