One young woman who is combining work with university is 19-year-old Kathryn Hunt, who left Greenhead last summer with an A and four A* grades at A level.
During her time at Greenhead, she always thought she would go to Durham University to study history. Following talks with the school’s careers service and one of Connexions’ personal careers advisors, she realised there may be an opportunity at local legal firm Chadwick Lawrence.
Kathryn started work there last autumn and the firm is sponsoring her law degree at BPP University, Manchester. She works four days a week at Chadwick Lawrence and spends the fifth day at university. She will still complete her degree in three years, as she works through the normal university holidays and during evenings.
Kathryn, of Scott Hill, Clayton West, said: “It is fantastic. Obviously, there is a lot of work in the evening, but the opportunities it has given me are brilliant.
“I am so glad I have done it. I thought I might miss out on university life, but this is the best of both worlds and I am learning so much quicker on the job”.
Ian Birbeck had travelled from his base in Worthing, Sussex, to man the stand for Projects Abroad. This organisation sends 8,000 young people to 27 countries every year on educational, medical and conservation projects which run from two weeks to a whole year. It also runs schemes in foreign orphanages.
He said: “The students here are really enthusiastic, we’ve been rushed off our feet and I’ve had to nip out to the car to get more brochures. We’ve had quite a lot of interest from people who are thinking of a medical or veterinary career.
“They want to get hands-on experience which they are unable to get over here. In India, for example, they may end up in the operating theatre – although obviously they wouldn’t be doing the surgery!”
Simon Darker, 30, said that a gap year in Fiji had been a life-changing experience for him. His Think Pacific not-for-profit organisation takes 130 young people to Fiji every year on trips which combine adventure with projects to benefit the local community.
The volunteers go on guided treks, spear fishing expeditions and climb extinct volcanoes. They also take part in schemes to build school facilities, teach, set up a kindergarten and develop sports in Fiji.
“A gap year can give you a different and wider perspective on life. It builds self esteem and confidence. For me it was a much better experience than university even, I got to see how 90% of the population lives and you realise we have so much opportunity.”
Greenhead College principal Martin Rostron, said: “There could be an air of despondency around, but it is for us to help with constructive ideas about how young people can move forward with their lives.
“This is an inclusive event because we want to make students aware of all the options: employment, apprenticeships, university or travel. You can see the buzz here tonight.
“ Students are thinking intelligently about the future and keeping an open mind about it. There is a lot of reason for optimism”.