This week I packed my bags and left Edge’s Westminster office for the Northeast – Newcastle. On arrival I checked myself into my apartment for the night, ironed my suit ready for the next day and set out into the town to see what the area had to offer.
I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of things to do and places to eat. Unfortunately I couldn’t get too carried away, so headed back to my apartment to get some sleep, ready for work the following morning.
A 15 minute drive and I arrived at Walbottle Campus for a Career Footsteps event. The school is a relatively new building with a stylish interior and packed wall to wall with 1,700 energetic students. However, this event was for a small group of year nine students. It was run as a workshop with three groups rotating between volunteers and hearing their stories.
The day started with an assembly welcoming both students and volunteers and explaining what the day would entail. Excited and rarin’ to go, students sat through the presentation patiently waiting to meet the volunteers.
The first volunteer I watched was a women called Dorothy. Now retired, Dorothy stills occasionally works with Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), which has taken her all across the world numerous times. After failing her 11 plus she was seen as being a bit of a failure, but Dorothy worked in her mum’s hairdressing salon, starting full time there at 16. By the age of 17 she had bought the salon off her mum and by 18 she owned her own house. Successfully building up a prosperous business and being accredited as North east hairdresser of the year, Dorothy was now doing well for herself. Aged 35 she wanted a change, but this was not easy as she didn’t have any qualifications. Luckily, due to the depth and breadth of her career Dorothy managed to get a high level qualification in business, which she then put to use in teaching. Years later Dorothy took early retirement before getting her part time role at CIE. Dorothy not only had an amazing story to share, but had an extensive knowledge of education, careers and life as a whole. When questioning the children about the jobs they wanted to pursue in the future, she always had a story to tell which encouraged and inspired the students.
I then went on to meet Gemma who is now a Public Sector Partnerships Manager at the Prince’s Trust. Gemma was very unlucky. Her family moved to Canada when she was five and returned to England when she was 17. Although she had the equivalent of five GCSE’s, she was now classed as an international student so was unable to continue her studies. Gemma had numerous jobs before moving to Glasgow with her boyfriend – who is now her husband. Unfortunately the company they both worked for in Glasgow went into liquidation, leaving them both jobless. This meant that they had to move back in with Gemma’s parents and lived life with little money to their names, and ate rice for dinner every night – which Gemma admitted was hard when you struggle to cook rice! She went on to complete a level 3 apprenticeship in business administration at Newcastle College. Driven by her early experiences, Gemma decided to put her qualification to use in the charity industry working for COCO, RELATE, a cancer charity and now The Prince’s Trust. She has also become part of a professional body since starting her career.
Finally I caught up with Nicole and Annelene from Nissan. Nicole and Annelene took a less personal approach and instead wanted to talk about the vast number of jobs at Nissan and all the different ways of developing a career with the company. The students were very excited to hear about fast cars and robots and were completely absorbed. Nicole and Annelene were both very animated and passionate about their jobs. They received a good reaction from the students and even had people stay back to ask about careers at Nissan.
This was my first Career Footsteps event. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Walbottle and it was great to see how enthusiastic both the volunteers and the students were. I think they got a lot from the workshop. I look forwards to attending further events and hopefully inspiring students in the process.