BALLYMENA Academy held its Annual Careers Evening on Thursday, February, 28. This highly successful and exceptionally well-attended event has become a very important part of the school’s calendar.
It is aimed at pupils in Year 10 and their parents, prior to making GCSE subject choices, and is one aspect of the programme of Careers Education, Advice, Information and Guidance provided for the young people who attend Ballymena Academy.
In this instance, the focus is on the young people making the transition from Key Stage 3 to Key Stage 4, from a heavily prescriptive compulsory curriculum to a learning programme with more options available. The intention is to enable them to identify the GCSE subjects most appropriate for their individual strengths and aspirations.
This is a very important process and it is becoming increasingly complex given curriculum reforms, the Entitlement Framework, changes within Higher Education and the difficult economic climate which is having such a negative impact in all areas of employment. All of these factors point to the need for schools to provide a carefully-planned and high-quality careers education service for all young people at each stage of their education.
A large number of former pupils, or parents of pupils at the school, each one prominent in his or her chosen profession or business, accepted an invitation to come along. Each gave a 20 minute presentation about their work, potential career progression, rewards in terms of job satisfaction, salary and relevant academic requirements. The parallel sessions were presented twice to allow those attending to hear more than one talk. The presentations were followed by an open forum, giving young people and their parents the opportunity to question the speakers.
There was a wide range of talks, covering a variety of careers and occupational areas. Those taking part included:- Mr. James Perry (Accountancy), Mr. Alan Jones (Architecture), Mr. Andrew McGuigan (Computing), Mrs. Laura Jones (Dentistry), Miss Judith Thompson (Dietetics), Mr. Curran McKay (Drama), Mr. Gavin McFarland (Civil Engineering), Mr. Alister Hanna (Electrical/Electronic Engineering), Prof. Roy Douglas (Mechanical Engineering), Mr. Glen Rodgers (Graphic Design), Mr. David Maxwell (Journalism), Prof. Janice Carruthers (Languages), Mr. James McKervill (Law), Dr. Alastair Aicken (Medicine – General Practitioner), Dr. Jenny Hughes (Medicine – Paediatrician), Dr. Lisa McCoy (Molecular Biology), Ms Rebecca Durston (Music), Miss Emily Boyd (Nursing), Dr. Lorraine Martin (Pharmacy), Mrs. Maureen Stirling (Physiotherapy), Mr. Mark Beattie (Primary Teaching), Ms Linzi Craig and Ms Ciara Cairns (Social Work), Mrs. Sheryl Jenkins (Speech & Language Therapy), and Mr. Mark McCracken (Veterinary Medicine).
A Careers Convention followed the presentations. This was open to all pupils, from Year 10 to Year 13, and their parents. They had the opportunity to find out information from the exhibitions and the representatives attending the convention. As well as the careers mentioned above, many others were represented, including Agriculture/Food & Rural Enterprise, Banking, Bombardier Aerospace, Occupational Therapy, Optometry, Podiatry, Radiography, R.A.F., Wright Bus and various Higher Education institutions.
One sign of the value which the young people attach to the Careers Convention is that pupils from more senior year groups also take the opportunity to explore career options they are considering.
Both parts of the evening were very well-attended and greatly appreciated by those who were present. Young people and adults alike acknowledged the benefits of the speakers’ direct experience, the cutting edge information and the “inside knowledge” which only practitioners can acquire. They appreciated the opportunities to ask questions and commented on the extensive range of careers covered by the speakers and exhibitors and on how much information was condensed into one well-organised evening.