Opening pupils’ eyes to a brighter future

The 2nd Annual Opportunities Fair was held on Saturday at Portsmouth Guildhall offering a wide selection of vocations for anyone to consider   (left to right) Mahde Saidi (9) from Portsmouth tries a simulator under the guidance of Tim Baines (50) Security Supervisor at Portsmouth International Port
The 2nd Annual Opportunities Fair was held on Saturday at Portsmouth Guildhall offering a wide selection of vocations for anyone to consider (left to right) Mahde Saidi (9) from Portsmouth tries a simulator under the guidance of Tim Baines (50) Security Supervisor at Portsmouth International Port
Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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It promises to inspire children to work hard and be the best they can be, so when the second Portsmouth Opportunities Fair took place this weekend, business editor EMMA JUDD was there to find out how

Ever wondered how long you’d have to cycle to make a smoothie?

How about how tricky it is to park a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier, or steer a pilot boat into Portsmouth harbour?

For young people who might have no idea what they might want to do for a living, the Portsmouth Opportunities Fair at the Guildhall on Saturday gave a huge insight into the future they could have in the city.

It was the second time the fair has been run, and is organised by the Shaping the Future of Portsmouth education group as well as the Portsmouth and South East Hampshire Education Business Partnership.

Its aim is to raise the aspirations of youngsters in the city by showing them what future they can have both by studying and working in Portsmouth.

The idea for it came on the back of poor GCSE results and a feeling among the business community that more needs to be done to encourage young people to work harder.

Last year’s fair was a resounding success, and this year’s looks set to have bettered it on every level.

Not only did hundreds of children walk through the impressive bronze double doors at the top of the Guildhall steps, but this year’s exhibits were more interactive, more fun, and better aimed at showing the kids what working in Portsmouth is all about.

Jacquie Jones, of the EBP, said: ‘It was exceptional.

‘There was a steady flow of people and the exhibitors were been fantastic.

‘The smaller companies have been brilliant, like the John Pounds Centre with its bicycle making a smoothie, the Portsmouth Music Hub, and the Southern Co-Operative.’

Some of the highlights of the fair included BAE Systems bringing along a 3D simulator of both how to fly a fighter jet and how to land it on board an aircraft carrier.

Youngsters flocked to the stand, eager to find out more about what an engineering company has to offer them.

For those interested in a sweeter tasting career, South Downs College was offering the chance to decorate cupcakes as an introduction into its catering course.

Other highlights included the transformation of the Guildhall’s members’ room into the Portsmouth Music Hub, which was alive with the sound of drumming and bowing, brass and woodwind.

And then there was the bed making from Premier Inn, the beauty therapies from Highbury College, and The News’s stand featuring our live internet coverage of the day, and the chance to meet the editor, Mark Waldron.

Not only was the Guildhall itself stuffed to the rafters with businesses large and small, but the event even spilled out into Guildhall Square, with police security marking bicycles and mobility scooters.

The event has become such a success that Portsmouth Lord Mayor Frank Jonas is adamant it should be a fixture in the school calendar, and praised the leaflets that this year were handed out by schools to every child in the city.

A former apprentice himself, Cllr Jonas says it is vital that the fair runs every year.

He said: ‘Speaking to the kids, it’s so important.

‘Whoever came up with calling this event an opportunities fair got it right, because it’s all about the opportunities.

‘What I want to see is the schools being really up for it next year.

‘We’re a historical city, but we can’t live in the past – we need to be all about the future.’

The work that’s being done in the city to raise pupils’ attainment is already bearing fruit.

Literacy and numeracy results have increased in a year, putting Portsmouth firmly back on track.

Philippe Jouy, managing director of Warings, and head of the education group of Shaping the Future of Portsmouth, said: ‘The fact that maths pass rate has increased from 50 per cent to 63 per cent – above the national average – shows how well we have been working together.’

Mr Jouy said the opportunities fair will continue in the future.

He said: ‘It’s all about building momentum. We had 26 role models here on the day, inspiring the children, and the opportunities fair will become a classic now.’

ACTION STATIONS

Some firms and organisations used the opportunities fair to introduce themselves to young people, and one of those which did just that was Action Stations, based at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Josh Hibberd, from the organisation’s educational team, was on hand with some games to tell kids about what it has to offer.

‘Because we’re all about the modern navy we sometimes get forgotten about, but we work with schools and we offer work experience for people aged 14 and above,’ he said.

‘The opportunities fair is a great way to let people know we’re here.’

JOHN POUNDS CENTRE

It was one of the most popular attractions - kids lined up to have a go at cycling fast enough to make a fruit smoothie.

And whilst it was a lot of fun, the attraction was designed to show young people what the centre is offering.

It has started its JP Juice Bar business to give people aged 16 to 25 the chance to learn new skills, run a business and develop their CV.

The centre’s Matt Mason said: ‘We’ve been given three years’ funding from the Big Lottery to promote healthy living, to put on activities for local residents and also to help young people develop business skills.

‘This is all about helping young people run a business, from the financial side, marketing, attending events and – hopefully – being able to draw a wage from it. We hope that by the time next year’s opportunities fair comes along the young people will be running it instead of us.’