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We need to be enterprising

The Careers Fair was lively all day, but I caught it at a fairly quiet moment
I spent an interesting day yesterday at the Civic Centre in Trowbridge at the invitation of Wiltshire Council. The event was a 'Careers Fair and Enterprise Day', with the idea being to give 16+ young people some help with with moving in the direction of their desired careers. It was a great idea, though I think there were a few lessons to be learned in terms of how to do it.

The Careers Fair part was buzzing and clearly doing a good job, as was the Apprenticeship Bus parked outside. Then there were the opportunities to undertake practice interviews and tables where various interesting people (including me) sat, able to provide Q&As on what it's like to work in their particular field. These were less successful.

The interviewers were quite busy in the morning, but mostly unoccupied in the afternoon. This was a real shame - mock interviews are hugely useful. I've interviewed for real, and a lot of young people don't have a clue how to present themselves. I also do mock interviews at our local secondary school, and know how much these help - so there should have been some gentle pressure to ensure the young people attended at least one of these, perhaps stressing they didn't have to have an interest in the particular organisation that was doing the interviews.

As for the Q&As, I think these were the least successful, because of a lack of structure. The young people didn't know where to go or how to use us. The principle's good, but I think there should have been more Q&As tailored to specific requirements (we had a huge batch of people who wanted to be electricians, but no electricians doing Q&As, for instance), and also perhaps a clear schedule - so if, for instance, you wanted to hear about science, to visit me (perhaps in a separate smaller room) at 2pm or whatever.

There was a bright side about sitting around most of the day with little business to occupy me, though, which was meeting the other people involved. As well as the Wiltshire Council folk, who it was good to meet (and weren't at all 'councilly' if you know what I mean), there were four people who stood out for me.

I got to meet the High Sheriff of Wiltshire, Peter Addington, which was fascinating, if only to find out more about his role and to add him to my collection of strange position holders I've met in the county, as I already know the Lord Lieutenant. It's quite mind boggling, but apparently all the counties still have sheriffs, the longest established official role in the country after the monarchy and the direct descendants of the likes of the Sheriff of Nottingham (though much nicer).

Jemima (right) joins Wiltshire Council's Susan Barker
in pretending to read my books
Equally interesting were an Asda community rep (she had a fancy title, but I've forgotten it), which every store apparently has - someone whose role full time is to work with the community, which is a great idea - and a youth worker with a charity that helps young people who don't get on with education but haven't been able to get a job, who was clearly highly dedicated and very eloquent about his role.

Last, but certainly not least, I shared my table with a genuine member of Team GB (she had the official track suit to prove it). Jemima Duxberry is currently fourth in the world in her class in Judo (number one in Europe) and hoping to represent us in the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. I'll be honest, with my inbuilt dislike of all things sporting, I wasn't quite sure what it would be like to be sitting alongside an athlete - but she proved to be an excellent conversationalist and not at all how you might expect a sportsperson to be if your main experience of hearing them speak is interviews with footballers.

All in all, the kind of thing we need more of to help young people into the right employment.


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