On 19 October I took part in the Explore Your Horizons networking event for young people.
The event was organised by Team London, the Mayor of London’s volunteer programme, and held at Lords Cricket Ground in St John’s Wood. The MCC, the Local Enterprise Partnership for London (LEAP) and the Careers & Enterprise Company were the supporters. It was set up as a combination of speed networking, careers activities and workshops.
As I arrived in the morning, about 270 Year 8 and Year 9 students (12 -14 year olds) from all over London were taking part in business challenges, delivered in partnership with MyKindaFuture.
I was one of about 280 business volunteers who were there to talk for four minutes to each student about working in our industries. This speed networking exercise was designed to give the students a unique opportunity to increase their confidence (although I was impressed by how confident the young people already were; a lot of them really knew what they wanted to do and where they wanted to go), knowledge and communication skills. It would also help them make informed choices when they have to make decisions about GCSE options.
Some of the questions
I met a girl who thought she wanted to be a doctor. However, when I talked about the different roles for women within construction she became interested in looking into our field. One boy wanted to be a civil engineer, and asked how he could present himself more effectively when applying for graduate schemes; I thought it was amazing for a 13-year-old to be thinking that way. Another said he thought it must be really cool to work on buildings that everyone knows about – and I agreed with him. I told him it’s your chance to leave a physical legacy behind.
Mostly the students asked about my career path, how I got to be where I am now, about the different aspects of my job and, most interestingly, what I would do differently if I were that age again.
A couple were sad that each interview was only four minutes long as they had more questions than we had time to answer. So they came up to me afterwards to talk. One asked me whether when she finishes her education she could contact VGC, and another wanted to learn more about our graduate scheme and what the interview process is like.
After the networking
To close the event, some of the students stood on stage and talked about what they would take from the day. They had really enjoyed the networking and learning about lots of industries that they hadn’t realised existed, so they found it highly beneficial.
All the advisers agreed that it was really good to be a part of helping young people to talk about their future and to give them the sort of advice we wish we’d had when we were at school.
It was really full-on, long day but very satisfying.
I’ve been asked to be an enterprise adviser next year. That will be in a different capacity, mentoring the students and helping with their presentations, which I think will be very interesting. I’m going along to an induction evening later this week, and will report back!