The event was aimed at inspiring youngsters in years 5 and 6 to think about opportunities and careers that they might not have considered before.
The event kicked off with a question and answer panel where the children had the task of trying to work out what the other participants and I do for a living, with our answers being limited to ‘yes’ or ‘no’, a challenge for both pupils and adults! The questions started quite slowly at first, but once the children grew in confidence their questions became more considered. Typical questions included:
• Do you work in a team?
• Do you use a computer?
• Do you help people?
• Do you travel the world?
Once the children had quizzed us, the seven other volunteers and I left the room whilst the children engaged in a lively debate about what they thought each of us had as a job. We were then able to reveal our roles to the children, and then we embarked on a ‘speed networking’ session where they were able to work in smaller groups and quiz the volunteers with specific questions about our careers.
Obviously the job title of ‘export requirements and support manager’ is a complex one to explain to anyone, let alone primary school children, so I used a model of a Typhoon aircraft (the one pictured above!) and explained to the audience that I helped the government identify technology developments for aircraft that would be useful for both the RAF and overseas customers. I also told them that I helped the companies that make the aircraft, and the government, to decide if we should and could sell the aircraft to other countries to help build partnerships for security. I explained that to understand the technical details about the aircraft, I needed experience and that I had previously served in the RAF as a pilot.
This sparked some really insightful questions, and during the networking session I was asked:
• What subjects did you need to study to be a pilot?
• How long was the training?
• Where do I work and travel?
• What was my favourite aircraft and why?
The children were really engaged, and I also helped them put their thinking caps on by throwing some questions back at them – it was only fair that they did some work, too. I asked them whether they thought girls could be pilots (the girls all said ‘yes’, whereas some of the boys were surprised that women could do any job in the RAF) and quizzed them on whether they had any ideas about what they wanted to do when they grow up.
I also tried to emphasise a number of points to them, including the importance of clear written and verbal communication in any job, that learning how to explain technical detail to people is an important skill and that flying aircraft was all about understanding physics, maths, chemistry, and engineering with a bit of geography thrown in.
It was brilliant after the event to receive some lovely letters from the children with their feedback:
Although primary-age pupils might not yet have a clear idea of their career path, this event was useful to get them thinking about wider opportunities than they might otherwise get visibility of. Most important was the chance to explain that everyone has different talents and skill sets, but that setting themselves a solid foundation in STEM subjects at primary and secondary school would offer them a range of choices and present opportunities for the future.
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