This summer I was presented with a wonderful opportunity to spend a few days volunteering in my old school at Burnham Grammar (BGS). It was a truly nostalgic experience and one which I will never forget. On day 1, year 12 students took part in a “speed-dating” style networking event where they had the chance to quiz the delegates on a variety of interesting topics. On day 2, BGS transformed its gymnasium into a fully-fledged Careers Hub packed full of prestigious universities, organisations and the armed forces. It was a truly immersive experience that got me thinking; whether you’re part of a big or small organisation, just how significant are Schools Outreach programmes?

Before I dive into this topic, it’s important for me to recognise how apprehensive I was before making that trip into school. As I walked through the reception doors, that nervous feeling I associated with GCSEs and A-levels came rushing back in a sudden shockwave. Capgemini has really provided me with an infinite amount of support when it comes to communicating with often very senior clientele such as IT Directors and CIOs; but I have to say, the challenge of connecting with a young person is often in another dimension of complexity. Apparently the average attention span of a goldfish falls somewhere around the 9 second region and humans are actually 0.75 seconds lower than this. When you break this down by age profile, the extremities tend to lie with younger cohorts. If you combine this with the fact that most marketing agencies estimate that they have somewhere between 3-5 seconds to captivate a millennial audience online, it was quite a daunting prospect for me to engage over 300 students in one go!

When I arrived I quickly discovered that these myths were completely and utterly dispelled. The energy and enthusiasm exhibited by the students of Burnham Grammar School was infectious. The teaching staff displayed an unwavering commitment to facilitating this process and it was clear that this wasn’t just a box-ticking exercise for them. Hours and hours of preparation go into ensuring that such events run smoothly and it’s incredible to be involved with such a passionate team of people. Talking to the students, it was clear that there were some obvious themes in the topics they were curious about:

  1. In hindsight, was the £47,000 debt you accrued at university worth the investment?
  2. Are there any alternatives to university which make me equally attractive to a prospective employer?

And my personal favourite:

  1. I have no idea what to do with my life; can you help me?

My response to the first question was a resounding yes but the £47K weight on my shoulders meant that the advice was given through somewhat gritted teeth. This did, however, act as a nice segway into question 2.

When I made the decision to progress to university, I had very little knowledge about alternative paths that led to my career destination. In actual fact, at the age of 18, I had close to no idea about what I wanted to do with my life other than that I wanted to combine Business, Economics and Technology in some way, shape or form. My year group was part of the second wave of university applicants to be hit by the £9K tuition fee cap and everyone was frantically looking for alternatives. My advice for prospective business or technology enthusiasts would be to go on the hunt for the government’s degree apprenticeship programmes. These routes into the world of work act as massive differentiators for you and help promote a brand for yourself like no other programme previously could.

This brings me to question 3. For obvious reasons, I struggled to help everyone that asked me this. I did, however, recommend that students check out the all-new Capgemini Degree Apprenticeship programme if they were interested in avoiding the painful debt, developing some genuinely great skills and meeting some amazing people along the way. If it sounds even moderately appealing to you or anyone you know, I’d definitely check it out at the very least.

I guess it’s time to go back to that old chestnut: “how significant are Schools Outreach programmes?” As clichéd as it sounds, it’s probably up there as being one of the most important things that we do as an organisation; and that’s not just because it’s a nice thing to do. If you’re a pure altruist, you’ll do it because you feel like you have a corporate responsibility to do so. If you’re more self-interested you should do it because it’s simply one of the best feelings in the world to use your position to help other people grow and develop. Whatever your excuse, I would personally encourage as many of you as possible to reach out to your network of old schools, colleges and academies and spread some inspiration amongst some truly energising young people.

Please reach out to Michelle Perkins or Clare Mills if you want to know more!