At our International Women’s day events last week, organised in partnership with North and West Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and Burnley Council, we asked 80 female college students and 80 senior women from a variety of industry sectors to debate the above subject.
To guide them, we set 5 questions which were discussed in groups of 8 and the findings were displayed and voted on, with each of the 80 delegates asked to vote for their top 3 answers.
Our findings were as follows:
We asked which was more important, choosing a career that suits your personal strengths or one that aligns itself to your highest marks at GCSE?
85% agreed that choosing a career that aligns to your passion will keep you motivated and help you succeed. A third of respondents felt that choosing subject options in school came at too early an age and does not take personal strengths into consideration.
We asked at what age should children start thinking about their future careers?
70% indicated that careers advice should start at key stage 2, with visits from local business owners seen as very important. Many also stated that our youngsters should not be forced into narrowing their field of focus too soon.
We asked whether work experience was important and how should young people access this?
85% said that connections between business and schools were vital, suggesting supervised mentoring schemes between business personnel and students, a variety of one day work experience visits and a website where students could be matched to local work experience opportunities.
We asked what had been the most helpful advice they had received so far regarding choosing a career?
Do something you enjoy, grasp opportunities, believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to change your path, were the top answers here, all scoring almost equal numbers of votes, interestingly these were all direct quotes from our two inspirational speakers!
Finally, we asked
Who do you think should give careers advice?
82% agreed that young people should be exposed to industry professionals throughout their school years with mentoring, workshops and inspirational guidance being delivered by them on a regular basis. Many again stated here that work experience is vital for older children. Interestingly careers fairs and advice being given by teachers or careers advisers each received less than 5% of the votes cast.
Many of you reading the outcome of our debate will be thinking “there’s nothing really new here” and I might agree, but what was new for many of the girls who took part, was the opportunity to debate something they had a real interest in, with experienced and empathetic women from the world of work.
Many of the students who attended our event did not have peer groups or family who could advise and inspire, many had never attended anything before which was remotely like this debate - and the debate was just part of a programme filled with motivational sessions and inspirational group and one on one conversations, designed to promote self belief, confidence and communication.
The staff of Burnley college and Preston college, who kindly sponsored the events, said they had never held anything like them before and that the student feedback was amazing. http://vimeo.com/roleuk
What is amazing is what business and education can do when they work together and it is evident from our discussions that that is exactly what both the students and business want to see happening. What we need to actually make this happen is a coordinated approach to national implementation.
Lesley Burrows of the Job Junction http://thejobjunction.co.uk/ spoke at our events about the importance of entrepreneurial skills, self esteem and mentoring and as a result, 85% of the women who attended our two events have offered to mentor a student. We need more programmes like Lesley’s in schools across the UK. Chambers of Commerce are bridging the gap between business and education via their Young Chamber initiative http://www.youngchamber.com/young-chamber , the BCC’s recent work around young girls and STEM has resulted in their ‘Model for schools and business partnerships’ report http://www.britishchambers.org.uk/policy-maker/policy-reports-and-publications/bcc-report-a-model-for-school-and-business-partnerships.htmlwhich is part of a series of surveys which found that 88% of businesses do not think our education system prepares young people for work.
At the end of our 2 events, we were tired but totally on a high. We saw first hand, the difference that a few hours spent with senior leaders and business owners can make to student aspirations and we can not thank enough, the incredibly hard working college staff and teachers, who welcomed us so warmly.
So, I appeal to all of you reading this blog, contact me, or your local Chamber of Commerce or Job Junction and offer to mentor a student or provide a work experience place or school visit because our survey shows ……….. that’s what the students want!
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
To all the wonderful women of Lancashire who came to Preston and Burnley colleges on the 8th March and helped us to inspire almost 100 female students at our Oysters and Pearls events. The feedback has been amazing - here are just a couple of comments from the girls...
" I don't want this to end. It has been brilliant and you know how I have lacked motivation lately. Well I am now inspired. The women on our table have been really inspirational and make you want to achieve”
We have had so many comments like this but this one really made all the planning and all the hard work worthwhile.....
"When the speaker said "Don't try and fit in, you are who you are, just be yourself because you are unique", I listened to her story of how she hated her voice when she was young and how her parents helped her believe in herself and how she learnt not to listen to negative comments. She made me feel good about myself, I have a birthmark on my face and when my Mum sadly passed away 5 years ago, I kind of lost all my confidence, but hearing Lesley's story made me think of my Mum and made me remember it doesn't matter what you look like, it's what's inside that counts. Everything about the day inspired me."
You made this happen, all you wonderful ladies who gave up your time and money to help us. The feedback from the other students has all been superb saying it was fun, it was friendly, it was 5*, it was an amazing event etc. The feedback from all our ladies has been incredible too with every single one of you asking to find out more about being a mentor for a girl in school.
From the table discussion, to the wonderful pie and peas, from the individual advice given one to one, to 100 women and students in a big circle taking part in our soundscape, the day pulsated with energy and Beyonce's "I was here" at the end of the event brought a tear to many an eye.
We will have all the photos and video testimonials on our website in the next few days
Finally, a massive thank you to Burnley Council and North and West Lancashire Chamber of Commerce for sponsoring the events.
We can't wait to role out (pun intended!) more of these incredible events at colleges across the North West.
If you enjoy my blogs, you can read more of my work in my book available here www.amazon.co.uk/Words-Walks-Wisdom-Wendy-Bowers/dp/1671172353