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Essential Skills & Career Stories: Q&A sessions with employer partners
“This gave us lots to discuss after the meeting. The children particularly talked about how you can change jobs to find something that you are passionate about. They also see more clearly now the links to Skills Builder.” - Comberbach Primary School

Last week, we ran our third and final Q&A session of the academic year. Students from primary and secondary schools, colleges and alternative provisions across our Accelerator and Digital Membership programmes joined live video calls. They asked insightful, thoughtful questions to fantastic volunteers from some of our employer partners.

Each session explored volunteers’ career stories and how they use essential skills: their past experiences, their present role and their future plans. We were joined by a wide range of volunteers from lawyers to data analysts to risk managers to early careers leaders. We were even joined by a submarine engineer!

The week in a snapshot: 

  • 52 Q&As ran across the week
  • It involved 1,300+ students from ages 7 - 18
  • 155 volunteers took part
  • 19 employer partners were represented

Career Past

Students began the sessions delving into our volunteers’ pasts. Pupils asked about experiences of the essential skills at school, what previous jobs the volunteers had and their overall career journey and skills development. 

“Did any extracurricular activities help you build your skills and develop in your career?”

“What was the most important essential skill you had to use in your old job?”

“Aside from academics, which essential skills do you think are the most important to get hired and then to stay in a job?”

They were also keen to know about inspirations and aspirations, particularly as many of the students were at an age where they were making key decisions about their futures. 

“Who has always been your inspiration through all of the jobs you’ve had?”

“How did you decide what the perfect career for you was?”

Students learnt about a range of career pathways from people with lived experience of college, apprenticeships, training courses and degrees.

Career Present

This is where volunteers were able to share insights about their current roles. Students were keen to see how the essential skills they are learning now are used day-to-day by the volunteers. 

“Did you have to use any essential skills when you applied for this job?”

“Why did you choose to work for your current organisation?”

“Which essential skills do you use in your job?”

Students wanted to learn more about the best and most challenging parts of our volunteers’ current jobs.

“What’s your favourite part of your job?”

“How do you make sure you stay positive if something goes wrong at work?”

“What do you find most stressful about your job?”

Throughout, the focus was always on essential skills and how the volunteers were applying them at work.

“What's the most challenging essential skill you're facing and what are you doing to become better at it?”

“What skill do you try to practise every day?”


Career Future

Wrapping up the Q&A session, questions focused on the volunteers’ plans for the future. Some students wanted to know if the volunteers had plans to change careers or jobs. Others were curious about what else they wanted to learn. 

“Going forward do you think you'll stay in the same career?”

“What essential skill do you want to work on next?”

Pupils were also unafraid to ask questions about the bigger career picture.

“If you could create a new job that doesn't exist, what would it be?”

“Do you think technology has a major impact on your career?”

Final words of advice

We asked our volunteers to share some final advice with students at the end of the Q&A. Here are some of the things they shared. 

“Uncertainty is certain, which is why your essential skills are so valuable!”
“My advice would be to find a job that you love, working with people who make you smile.”
“People are the best resource. There'll always be people who want to help you, use that resource!”

What did teachers have to say?

We received wonderful feedback from teachers from all of the schools and colleges.

"These events are a fantastic opportunity for us to provide our pupils with a broad range of encounters that would not get any other way so thank you for everyone who is involved in organising it and to the volunteers for their time." - Saxon Mount School
“It was really interesting to hear from different employers about the skills they use. Children enjoyed asking them questions.” - City of London Primary Academy Islington

What did volunteers have to say?

Our volunteers agreed, commenting on what inspired them to participate and what they thought went well.

“When I was in school (and now) I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I wanted to let students know that it works out even if you can't decide!” - Network Rail 
“I wanted to contribute to Skills Builder's mission to help young people develop essential skills” - Kyndryl
“I love the idea that all children and teenagers have the same chances in working life. I believe charities like Skills Builder remove the disparity between classes and income bands” - BP
“I think it’s a great offering you are providing to the schools and the kids and I’m very happy to make time available. When I was at school we didn’t have anything like it.” - HSBC
“I wish something like this existed when I was at school.” - Lloyds Banking Group

What did students have to say?

Most importantly the students themselves took away some crucial reflections:

"I learnt that you need all the essential skills for any job." 
"I have heard about new jobs and so now feel more open to looking at these…this will help me make decisions about my job in the future and what subjects I should study."
“I know to keep trying and ask for help if I have a problem because they will become smaller and smaller"

Thank you! 

A huge thank you to all of the wonderful volunteers who gave up their time to answer the students’ questions and share their experiences. Your advice and knowledge is invaluable and pupils gain a great deal from the sessions.

Thank you too to all the wonderful schools, colleges and students who took part for your thought-provoking questions. Finally, thank you to all the teaching staff who helped facilitate the sessions and support the students in their learning and engagement. Here’s what our team thought about the week. 

“I love the honesty and sincerity of volunteers answers which of course only happens because of the great questions students ask” - Joella, Education Associate, Skills Builder Partnership
“The best bit is facilitating the 'light bulb' moment; where students realise how the importance of essential skills in the world of work” - Sophie, Senior Education Associate, Skills Builder Partnership

If you’re a school or college not currently on a programme with us, final applications for the 2023-24 Accelerator programme are open and close on 7th July.

If you are an employer who wants to support skills development whilst also raising the profile of your business through such opportunities we’d love to have you involved! Please reach out to