Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Send for the Professionals; Inspiring the Future Volunteers Can Play a Valuable Role in Schools. by Kate Hilpern

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Send for the Professionals; Inspiring the Future Volunteers Can Play a Valuable Role in Schools. by Kate Hilpern

Article excerpt

Byline: Kate Hilpern

When Andy Spencer left school at 15 with no GSCEs, he hardly expected to wind up being a senior manufacturing engineer at Aston Martin. "But the fact that I wasn't a straight-A student is why young people like hearing my story. It makes them realise that, whatever their grades so far, they could aim for a job like mine," explains Spencer, who is one of over 16,000 volunteers for Inspiring the Future.

The initiative matches volunteers from all professions, jobs and sectors with teachers in schools, who call on them when they want to give young students first-hand career insights. You can give as little as one hour a year in a school near where you live or work.

"It's enormously rewarding," says Spencer. "Not just because I'm giving something back, but because it's good for my professional development. I get to practice presentation skills and I learn so much from watching teachers give lessons. I've seen CEOs with lesser presentation skills."

Volunteers aren't generally expected to give big lectures. In fact, there's no set format: some people come in to chat with a small group of A-level English students; others have one-to-one chats with 14-year-olds.

Typical student feedback includes the comments "I didn't realise those careers existed" and "I didn't think I could do anything like that".

"We were aware that lots of employers were keen to help schools and lots of schools wanted the input of employers, but both were unsure how to go about it," explains Nick Chambers, director of the Education and Employers Taskforce, the charity behind the initiative. "So we wanted to find a way to bring a structure to this good will, particularly as we know that when young people hear people talking about their jobs, it can have a massive impact on their aspirations."

Having brought together brains from organisations ranging from the Government to business, and having called on Deloitte to help with software that could efficiently connect schools and businesses, Inspiring the Future enjoyed an official launch in July 2012. "We got a lot of volunteers immediately and the more word spread, the more we got," says Chambers. …

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