What does a brain-powered car, a 60mph bike, the emergency services, The News and Portsmouth Football Club have in common?
They were all at the first Portsmouth Opportunities Fair yesterday, inspiring a new generation to find jobs and careers in the city.
More than 1,500 youngsters attended yesterday’s event at the Guildhall, finding out about the different businesses and careers on offer.
Local schools and colleges provided the soundtrack and the entertainment on the Guildhall’s main stage, which was also projected on the big screen in the square.
And the buzz within the Guildhall itself didn’t stop until the event closed at 3pm.
It was all organised by the Portsmouth Education Business Partnership and Shaping the Future of Portsmouth (SFP), which is a group made up of businesses, Portsmouth City Council, colleges and the University of Portsmouth that shouts about what makes our city great.
Philippe Jouy, managing director of Warings and chairman of the education group within SFP, said: ‘It has gone very well, with nearly 100 businesses here.
‘We’ve also got 35 role models.
‘We did this to showcase all the great career opportunities which exist within the city in order to inspire young people and to raise their aspirations and the aspirations of their parents and families, because they have a key role to play in shaping the future of their children.’
Mr Jouy also paid tribute to the work of the businesses involved in committing their time and resources to make the event so successful.
He added: ‘It’s been a fantastic effort by many volunteers who have worked tirelessly, as well as doing their usual jobs, to make this happen.
‘We’ve had the Guildhall provided for free by the council, and all the printing has been donated by Bishops Printers. The university also provided a free bus to ensure that no-one from the north of the city missed out.
‘It’s been a wholly joined-up effort by everyone on a city-wide scale.
‘I think it’s been brilliant for many children and it could be the first step on their journey to a career that they really enjoy, whatever that career might be.
‘If we’ve inspired even a few children, it has all been worth it.’
Warings has been just one of the dozens of local businesses that has firmly been behind the event.
Another of those has been IBM, which helped with the organisation and brought a fleet of volunteers and role models to the event to tell the youngsters what they do.
Marcus Davidson interrupted his busy day showing off a brain-powered car and interactive sign-language system to speak to The News.
He said: ‘This is not a recruitment fair, there are no jobs being offered here.
‘What we’re doing is showing the vast array of things going on in the city.
‘It’s a chance to tell people as well what IBM does – we’re not all about computers.’
Youngsters attending the fair got the chance to try their hand at cooking, find out more about Portsmouth’s creative industries, such as the Southsea Boutique Market, get an introduction into the world of hospitality, and find out about careers in newspapers, chartered surveying, the armed forces, technology and further education.
Portsmouth’s Lord Mayor Cheryl Buggy spoke to The News as she stepped out of a fibreglass Velomobile, one of the exhibitions at the Guildhall.
She said: ‘Don’t you just love it when someone has an idea and that idea becomes reality?
‘We wanted to introduce young people to what’s possible for them in their city, and we have done that.
‘Events like this just up positivity in the city, and it’s great for businesses, it’s great for kids, great for their parents.
‘I would like to make this an annual event – it should be in the calendar every year from now.’
Cath Longhurst, of the Portsmouth Education Business Partnership, described the event as ‘fabulous’.
She added: ‘We’ve had some amazing feedback from people on the stands, from parents saying they’ve seen companies here that they’ve never heard of before.
‘We’ve had people coming in from the street thanks to it being broadcast on the big screen, and they’re all families, which is really nice to see. The response has been amazing. We’ve had people in who wouldn’t go to similar events, such as careers fairs, and it’s really opened people’s eyes to the things going on in the city that are really quite exciting.
‘A lot of the companies are saying “can we do this annually?”. As long as we have their support, I think that has to happen.’
BRAIN-POWERED CAR DRAWS THE CROWD
One of the biggest draws was IBM’s brain-powered car exhibition and their interactive computer programme which helps people to learn and communicate in sign language.
Young and old alike crowded around the stand to find out more and have a go themselves.
IBM took part in the Portsmouth Opportunities Fair yesterday to tell people about what a career in science looks like, and what the company does.
Marcus Davidson, from IBM, said: ‘I’ve had so much fun here.
‘Some of the kids come up and they think science is boring, but when they leave the stand they realise it can be exciting and that they can do it if they want to.
‘When they realise they can use their brains to push a cube on the computer and move a car, their eyes light up and that’s really great to see.’
YOUNGSTERS TRY OUT VELOMOBILE
When marine firm Quay Projects, from Botley, decided to diversify their business, they united their work with a labour of love – cycling.
Malcolm van Rooyen was at the Guildhall yesterday to show off the company’s Velomobile, which is a fibreglass-covered bike which can travel at speeds up to 60mph.
Dozens of youngsters got the chance to try out the velomobile, though often their legs weren’t long enough to meet the pedals, and wanted to take one home.
Malcolm said: ‘We look after some of the boats on the Hamble, and when the recession hit the marine order books suffered, so this is fibreglass diversification and what I love doing, which is cycling.’
Malcolm is hoping to ride the bike across America, and is also working on a new velobike which can reach speeds of 90mph – downhill.
He is looking for local firms to sponsor him and his back-up team.
To find out how, email Malcolm@qpltd.fsnet.co.uk