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A student considers her options at the Careers in the City fair

Changing minds at Careers in the City

A student considers her options at the Careers in the City fairFor the third year in a row, our Careers in the City event introduced Hackney sixth form students to the many and varied routes young people can take to access City careers. Held at the Tomlinson Centre, the careers fair – funded by the Hackney Learning Trust – brought together employee volunteers from a host of prestigious organisations to showcase high-calibre school leaver and apprenticeship programmes.

The 50 students who attended (from Bridge AcademyClapton Girls’ AcademyHaggerston SchoolCardinal Pole Catholic SchoolOur Lady’s Convent High SchoolPetchey Academy and the City Academy, Hackney) took part in fun, skills-based activities and networked with the volunteers. They learnt about apprenticeships, school leaver schemes, and the many routes into a company or industry that do not require a degree.

Ice-breaker activities got the students thinking, talking and ready to network. These included our perennial favourite, the potato pitch, where students must work as a team to sell the humble spud in the most creative and persuasive way they can! This year’s event featured a new element, with a professional photographer taking headshots of each student – intended to give their LinkedIn profiles an extra polish.

A fantastic 37 volunteers from a record 16 companies gave up their time to help raise awareness of alternatives to university. Many of our exhibitors got their first foot on the career ladder thanks to a school leaver scheme or apprenticeship, and so were able to share their own stories and experiences with the young people. “Really enjoyed meeting students and talking to them about options available to them,” said one volunteer.

Jordan Kagwe-Bailey, representing Microsoft’s Get On scheme, found volunteering to be a rewarding experience. “It’s very rare for every student who approaches the stall to be so keen and switched on about what they can achieve if they put the time in,” he said. “One student had the great idea to complete an apprenticeship as a kind of gap year to enhance his skill set before going on to university. This was a personal highlight since the other students around him realised that what a great opportunity it was and considered it themselves.”

The companies taking part were grouped together into 4 different ‘zones’, covering the City’s key sectors: Business, Property, Technology and Law & Finance. Organisations represented included the City of London CorporationKPMGBDOWillmott DixonClyde & CoAON and Laing O’Rourke, offering a great range of schemes for students to get excited about.

Students attending told us how much they’d learned from the event. “It changed my view and perspective of apprenticeships,” said one; “the amount of opportunities available surprised me,” said another. One student summed up their learning with this simple – but powerful – phrase: “degrees aren’t always important”.

“The feedback shows just how much difference events like this can make,” said Samantha Dodd, Inspire!’s Senior Programme Manager. “It’s vital that we raise young people’s awareness of the different high-calibre options available to them; options that allow them to earn and learn at the same time. We’re so grateful to all our business volunteers for helping us open students’ minds about the diverse range of careers in the City.”

Careers in the City has already done a lot to help local young people consider their future options, but we have big plans to boost its impact even further in 2017. If you’d like to be involved in next year’s event, or to find out more about any of our other work-related learning programmes for secondary schools, please email