There are not many events in which you might find representatives from CERN, the fashion industry, financial services, hospital medicine, architecture and the navy. However, they were all to be found at the Joint Abingdon Independent Schools Careers Convention, held at St Helen and St Katharine on Friday 16 March. The event aims to bring together three schools to give students in Years 10, 11 and Sixth Form the chance to explore and discuss their future careers.
It was a packed and fascinating evening, beginning with a keynote speech from science broadcaster and writer Dallas Campbell – brilliantly stepping into the breach for an indisposed Helen Sharman. Speaking to the 500-strong audience of students and their parents, Dallas emphasised the importance of questioning, of science as a part of human culture and being enjoyed, and shared anecdotes of his documentary work on the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and with astronaut Tim Peake. Quoting Richard Feynman and J.K. Rowling also in his talk, his enthusiasm and passion for his work was a brilliant stimulus for the students to then seek out representatives to question for themselves.
There were a number of St Helen’s alumnae manning stalls – representing notably CERN (to which Sixth Form Physics students have recently travelled), an MP's office, the London Ambulance Service, the Institution of Civil Engineers, Google and the University of Oxford. We are profoundly grateful to them for helping to inspire the current generation of students.
Two panel discussions also took place, focusing on the benefit of apprenticeship and how to prepare yourself for the job market. A diverse selection of speakers at varying stages of their careers gave some very sound advice, including an important but perhaps overlooked point: do what is right for you.
Head of Sixth Form Mrs Doherty was delighted with the impact of the event. ‘It was a huge success. Dallas Campbell gave a funny, encouraging and welcoming keynote address to start the evening and the students left eager to meet the representatives from a vast range of careers. The School was buzzing with excitement and, as I talked to students, they described how inspired they had been by the conversations they had had.’
One of the students who attended also commented how encouraging the evening had been: ‘I feel so much more motivated now. Last year, I just went round with my friends but this evening I have gone off on my own to discover careers that I am interested in – and I’ve found it so useful.’
A mark of the extent to which students had set out to discover as much as they could was the reaction from the various career representatives, who were very impressed by the students they met, praising their maturity and enthusiasm. Many described them as switched on and full of interesting questions. 'It was good to see some of the girls' eyes open up as to where their interest in geography could take them,' commented one, and another said: 'I was most impressed by the number of students who had sorted themselves work experience with firms, which shows considerable initiative.'