SBT speaks to Lea Gilbert, Head Teacher at Gildredge house, Eastbourne and explains the reasons behind becoming involved with The BIG Futures Show and the benefits of this on local schools and businesses

For a huge amount of young people, finding the right career path is an overwhelming process and, alongside revising for the all-important GCSEs and A Levels, can seem almost impossible. Cue The BIG Futures Show, East Sussex’s employability and skills fair, set to take place at The Winter Garden on 22nd March. Run by the Eastbourne Education Business Partnership and sponsored by a range of businesses and organisations including Eastbourne Borough Council, Sussex Downs College, The View Hotel, Hastings Direct, NHS Health Education England and Bexhill College, The BIG Futures Show is the go-to event for students seeking inspiration, clarity and general information on the possibilities out there once they leave education. The BIG Futures Show (#BIGFS2017) offers the many benefits of national shows with a strong mix of businesses, employers and educators in one venue, all with the aim to educate young people on making their way into the working world.

IMG_1764“The BIG Futures Show is organised in association with Eastbourne Borough Council. We recognise the importance of hosting an annual skills and employability experience to bring together businesses and students, parents and anyone looking for work or training from across East Sussex to deliver a high quality and cost effective event for all involved,” said Eastbourne Borough Council’s Strategy & Commissioning Officer, Kerry Barrett.

She continued: “Under one roof and in Eastbourne, visitors can receive an interactive hands-on and inspiring experience from a great range of exhibitors to help inform future career decisions, and businesses can contribute to the development of the workforce, find an employee and gain exposure through the high profile event.”

Also supporting 2017’s BIG Futures Show is the Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce.Christina Ewbank commented ahead of the event: “The BIG Futures Show is a great opportunity for businesses to showcase what they do to the employees of the future. It’s also a great opportunity for students to find out what careers might be available to them once they leave school or college. At Edeal and the Chamber of Commerce we exhibit at The BIG Futures Show because we like to show students how they can work for themselves when they leave college. There are some impressive young entrepreneurs in Eastbourne!”

For businesses, BFS offers a fantastic opportunity to engage with and inspire students that will be their future workforce. It might inspire them to enter your industry, or even to work for a particular firm. Given a show guide, including a unique workbook prior to the event, students come prepared to learn more about their future; they know exactly what they want to know and where to gain that information from. Parents are also welcome to attend The BIG Futures Show to encourage this discovering process and see for themselves what opportunities are out there for their children. Parental encouragement and support is such an important part of these key years in a young person’s life, so parents are invited and encouraged to come along.

A significant new feature of The BIG Futures Show for 2017 will be the “Employability Hub”. During the day Hastings Direct and Sussex Downs College will be running short workshops and round table discussions on a whole range of ‘readiness to work’ subjects. These will include transferable skills, personal statements, CV writing, interview skills and employability behaviours. Later in the day and into the evening the emphasis of these will shift to parents wanting to understand what their child should be doing towards getting into the workplace and to older students who might be about to look for work.

IMG_1769Last year’s event was a huge success, with feedback suggesting benefits all round; to businesses, to schools, to students and to parents. “We took 4 members of staff to hold the stand at BFS, and they had a wonderfully enthusiastic response from student attendees, who they were constantly talking to.” said one exhibitor at last years event. “We used the day as an opportunity to get the word out there that construction isn’t just hands-on work, but there is a huge element of white-collar work too; most young people don’t realise that 50% of the industry is professional, such as marketing. We chat to them in the hope that we broaden their perspective of the career paths on offer to them.”

Students also noted their appreciation of the event: “It was an event to give us insight about what different options there are after leaving school, such as college and apprenticeships. At the event, we met lots of representative from different local companies such as The Grand Hotel, Caffyns and nurses and doctors from the NHS,” said one Causeway School student.

She continued: “As well as local businesses there were also representatives from sixth forms, colleges and universities who spoke to us about the courses they offer and the grades required to get on certain courses. Overall the event taught us all a lot about our future and has made us all really start to consider our futures and think about jobs and career paths we never knew existed!”

This year though, the show is offering something a little ‘extra’ in the form of The BIG Futures Show Extra. This is an all new pre-show event, co-promoted with Eastbourne Chamber & Sussex Business Times, is taking place on 2nd March 2017 at the View Hotel on Eastbourne seafront.

Aimed at both exhibitors, employers and businesses, BFS Extra aims to help with presenting and engaging show visitors and will offer help and advice across a broad range of topics related to attracting and employing young people. The event will consist of 3 presentation sessions of about 2 hours in the auditorium, whilst outside of the auditorium there will be breakout zones for apprenticeship and training providers.

The event will be full to the brim with speakers and presentations from a variety of organisations including Lets Do Business, Shopper Anonymous, East Sussex CC, Sussex Skills Solutions and others. Subjects covered include: exhibition and trade show stands and displays, visitor and customer engagement and offering apprenticeships. There will also be teacher and governor representatives from local schools and from East Sussex County Council offering advice, guidance and understanding about education today and about the qualifications students achieve.

Shopper Anonymous’ Paul Matthews will be delivering a talk based on engaging with visitors at an exhibition and ensuring that businesses maximise sales opportunities through what the prospect sees and feels whilst visiting their stand, as well as what happens after they have left. This talk will incorporate five key areas, including appearance, body language, asking great questions, listening and the follow up. Paul said: “At Shopper Anonymous we have international experience mystery shopping exhibition stands all over the world. In 2016 we visited exhibitions in Mumbai, Madrid and Dubai, giving high-quality feedback to help businesses ensure they get the best possible return for their exhibition investment. I am delighted to be involved with The BIG Futures Show for the first time in 2017!”

Eastbourne MP, Caroline Ansell will be attending both events, presenting her Disability Confident project. Backed by Legal and General, this project aims to help people with disability into work. At The BIG Futures Show it will be concentrating on opportunities for young people with a disability, offering opportunities for students with disabilities to meet employers. BFS Extra will offer a great opportunity for employers wishing to find out about offering employment to disabled students.

Tim Sorensen, Programme Manager for Eastbourne Education Business Partnership shared his excitement over the upcoming event: “We are really excited about evolving arrangements for The BIG Futures Show 2017. Organised in association with Eastbourne Borough Council, the show has already proved itself as the premier employability and skills event for the region. Qualifications are very important but it is personal aspects of employability and skills that carry the day into eventual employment and this is what The BIG Futures Show is all about. We are truly grateful to our partner sponsors for helping to make BFS 2017 a reality.”

Lea Gilbert Pre-Opening 2_highSussex Business Times also got in contact with Lea Gilbert, Head Teacher of Gildridge House, a free school in Eastbourne, which was established in 2013 and is now in its fourth year in operation. Here, Lea explains the reasons behind becoming involved with the Eastbourne Education Business Partnership and The BIG Futures Show, and the benefits of these organisations on local schools and businesses:

What is your own business background?

Like many teachers, I came into education because I loved teaching my subjects and wanted to share my knowledge with a new generation of young people. I have no ‘business background’ or training as such. My more recent career in headship has seen me developing a whole new set of skills and areas of expertise including budget management, marketing and promotions, public relations and recruitment. I recall feeling stunned when I was nominated and went on to win a Woman in Business award a couple of years ago, as I never saw myself in this way. I just wanted to do my very best to make our school a real success both educationally and financially, which to me meant recruiting the best quality staff and delivering the highest quality provision with the resources available. Everyone involved in the project had a strong sense of the vision and ethos of the school which really helped, particularly in the challenges of our early days. At a free school, we can actually work as a team on an entrepreneurial vision for our school and our students, and we can be aspirational in what we’re doing. It’s exciting to push the boundaries of our curriculum. Parents say to me that our school is a breath of fresh air and I know we’ve made a discernible difference in our town.

How did you become involved with the Eastbourne Education Business Partnership and The BIG Futures Show?

IMG_1858A member of the Board approached me almost as soon as I arrived in Eastbourne. How could I not want to become involved? Eastbourne Youth Radio was the first real hook for me, and we have been involved in it every year since then, but quite honestly I am so impressed by the range of opportunities for schools to get their children of all ages involved. The EEBP has a strong vision and guiding principles, which means that every event they organise manages to bring schools and businesses together in a meaningful and enjoyable way. The perfect example of this is The BIG Futures Show. I signed up Gildredge House for this immediately when it was first mooted in 2016. As far as I was concerned, it would be a big tick in the box of careers advice and guidance for our secondary students. We only had Years 7-9 at that stage but I could see that attending a careers fair on this scale, bringing our students into direct contact and discussion with business leaders of the county would be a fantastic experience for them. They loved it and we eagerly signed up for 2017. I’m delighted that I am going to be more involved myself next year in the sister event of BIG Futures Extra. We’ll be helping businesses to understand what head teachers, careers advisers and students will be asking when they attend The BIG Futures event a couple of weeks later. This, I hope, will get the conversations going in an even more formative way and make the event even more worthwhile for everyone involved.

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