Equipping pupils for an uncertain post-Covid careers market

Equipping pupils for an uncertain post-Covid careers market

While coronavirus restrictions have forced the cancellation of the School’s normal Year 11 Careers Convention, QE has ensured boys do not miss out in this challenging time by giving them opportunities to join a series of internal and external special events.

The centrepiece of the careers programme was a day-long virtual convention for Year 11 in their form groups, with six video sessions featuring speakers on topics ranging from entrepreneurship to cyber-technology.

Assistant Head (Pupil Progress) Sarah Westcott said: “We tried to replicate the experience students usually get at the Careers Convention, where they meet representatives of different professions one to one, albeit this year it had to be done virtually. The aim was for them to hear not only about the sectors these professionals work in, but also about the challenges faced by young people entering the work place and the need to be flexible in terms of outlook and skills.

“It is important that QE students take the opportunity to develop their personal attributes as well as their academic ones in order to be as attractive to employers as possible. The Covid crisis has highlighted the fragile nature of some employment sectors, and it is important we equip our students with all the skills they will need in the future,” added Dr Westcott.

Organisations represented during the day included Google, KPMG, Cass Business School and Rakuten, the electronic commerce and online retailing company. The speaker for the final session, on engineering, was Old Elizabethan Karan Dewnani (2006–2013), who has enjoyed a successful career as a civil engineer after graduating with a Master’s degree in Civil and Structural Engineering from Sheffield in 2017. Karan, who is pictured, top, on the big screen, recently took up a post with global professional services consultancy, WSP.

Reflecting on all the sessions afterwards, Dr Westcott said: “The overwhelming take-home message from all of our speakers has been: ‘Do what you love, and a fulfilling career will follow!’”

The virtual convention was preceded by another careers event for Year 11 – a virtual assembly given by ASK (the Apprenticeship Support and Knowledge for Schools and Colleges programme), a Government-supported body whose focus is promoting alternative routes to degrees through work.

These programmes mean a student gets a degree paid for by an employer, on-the-job experience and a boost to their career from the moment they finish their A-levels.

“The aim of the virtual assembly was to demystify what an ‘apprenticeship’ is and explain to the boys how they can access on-the-job degree programmes with a diverse range of companies and organisations, such as PWC, EY, the NHS, Ministry of Defence, BBC, BAE, Army, Cisco and KPMG,” said Dr Westcott.

There was also a special careers initiative offered to a limited number of sixth-formers, which began with a Careers Accelerator virtual assembly fed into all the Year 12 classrooms using Zoom. Career Accelerator was established in 2017 by social entrepreneur Mayur Gupta, who says: “My goal is to help shape a world where hard-working young people from diverse backgrounds are empowered to realise their full potential and become the future leaders of society.”

Dr Westcott said: “This is a mentoring initiative for Year 12 students with companies from across the digital sector – a brilliant opportunity to expose them to professions they may not have considered within the digital sector and get work experience in companies such as Google, Vodafone, Just Eat, Cisco and LinkedIn, alongside exciting tech start-ups. They will also benefit from advice on CVs, interviews and networking. The programme aims to level the playing field, opening up such careers to young people from all walks of life.”

Following the assembly, boys completed competitive applications to secure one of around 20 places available to QE on the programme in the Spring Term.

Those who successfully secure places will take part in at least three one-hour virtual mentoring sessions to help them prepare for their future careers.