Students at schools across the country have had their eyes opened to careers in trade and commerce thanks to a project run by education charity Future First.
The ‘Commerce in the Classroom’ initiative, funded by the Commercial Education Trust (CET), saw students in schools stretching from Kent to Sunderland meet up with former pupils and other volunteers working in trade and commerce to provide them with an insight into careers in the sector.
Future First specialises in connecting students with former pupils from their schools and other relatable role models so they build up the knowledge, confidence, and inspiration to succeed when they leave school.
It’s the second year Future First and the CET have come together to run the project and Year 10 and 12 students from seven schools in Hull, Sunderland, Essex, Norfolk, Kent and London had the chance to learn about the world of commerce and trade.
The alumni and volunteers included someone working in global relations and trading for Manchester City Football Club, a trader at Royal Dutch Shell, and an Executive Assistant at the Department for International Trade.
Volunteer Peter Oliver, a Berlin-based journalist specialising in trade, said: “I didn’t know what was available when I was a kid, now I do, I’d like others to know that it’s a big world with lots of opportunities.
“We don’t know what they may find most useful, but when they can ask questions that’s where some gold may be unearthed.”
A number of the schools were invited to participate in the initiative because they are based in social mobility cold spots where there is a higher-than-average number of students in receipt of Free School Meals. Many are also located close to ports, providing the area with a greater focus on international trade and commerce.
Future First has grown a network of more than 200 volunteers who work in trade and commerce and around 560 students from the participating schools took part in the initiative. Through a mixture of virtual and face-to-face activities, students took part in workshops, career carousels, games focusing on skills needed for trading, and problem-solving exercises relevant to challenges connected with jobs in the sector.
One student said: “The workshops made me more aware of the different elements to jobs in international trade and the diverse range of jobs and opportunities.”
Alex Barnes, Alumni Programme Manager at Future First, said: “Future First is committed to helping young people in state schools and colleges broaden their horizons by connecting them with former pupils who they can relate to.
“The Commerce in the Classroom project comes at a critical time for both students and the economy. Many young people have had their confidence and ambitions for the future knocked by the pandemic and initiatives like this make a real difference. We’re grateful to the Commercial Education Trust for the funding to making it possible for us to help ensure a young person’s start in life does not limit their future.”
A CET spokesperson said: “CET is delighted to have been involved as a partner in Future First’s Commerce in the Classroom, and looks forward to the next stage of the project. The aims and objectives of the initiative tie in with those of CET, preparing young adults for life and the world of work. CET believes that initiatives like these will have a long-lasting effect on the lives of young people and on their attitude to work and life.”