DESPITE difficult times for school leavers, there was a definite buzz around Greenhead College’s Employment and Gap Year Fair.
Students and parents packed the college hall, eager to learn more from the dozens of stallholders, some of whom had travelled hundreds of miles to take part.
The world was literally the students’ oyster as the display area was divided into two sections. The hall was taken over by 26 stalls from mainly Yorkshire-based employers and training providers, as well as the Army, RAF, West Yorkshire Police and Kirklees Council.
A smaller section was devoted to gap year stallholders who promoted projects from far-flung corners of the globe.
These days, Huddersfield’s teenagers can build latrines for Karen hill tribes in northern Thailand, volunteer for marine conservation expeditions and diving projects in Cambodia or Sri Lanka, assist in Indian hospitals, climb extinct volcanoes or help build a classroom in Fiji.
Normally students have to contribute around £2,500 towards the costs of the schemes, which are run by not-for-profit organisations, and individuals often raise the money through sponsorship.
At a time when many employers feel that schools could do more to prepare students for a life of work, it was gratifying to see the genuine interest with which the students approached the stalls in the employment section of the fair.
Greenhead’s head of careers, Gillian Peers, said links are definitely forged which lead to real jobs.
She said: “The idea is to get students and parents here so they can see what is available at 18. They can also see what jobs there are in the area pre or post-degree.
“David Brown has taken four or five of our students as apprentices. These days apprenticeships are really good as an alternative to university and it is definitely the right way to go for some students. There are also the higher level apprenticeships which can involve university”.
She added that, despite this year’s increase in tuition fees, Greenhead had seen roughly the same percentage of its 2,000 students apply for university as in the previous year.
“The students are being pragmatic; they think it will be worth it in the end. They don’t pay the loans back straight away and there are some career areas where they will never have to pay it off”.