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Our Future Derby project seeking volunteers to help inspire career choices of future generation

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A SCHEME aimed at connecting business leaders with primary school children in Derby is making an appeal for volunteers to inspire future generations in our city ahead of National Volunteers Week (June 1 to June 7).

The Our Future Derby project inspires and connects youngsters across the Derby Opportunity Area – including Boulton, Chaddesden, Derwent, Normanton, Sinfin and Abbey – with the world of work, opening their eyes to their future possibilities.

Funded by the Department for Education Opportunity Area, Our Future Derby have been working with several city schools, such as Landau Forte Academy Moorhead, who recently held a Job Swap Day for pupils where youngsters applied to become head teacher for the day.

Ruth McNeil, principal of Landau Forte Academy Moorhead, said:

“We joined Our Future Derby on their launch day for schools in the city and I sat there thinking that ‘this is it; this is what our school’s unique selling point is’. It’s just what we need.

“The journey which the school is on is about giving back to the community and we felt that the project was a vehicle for us to raise the aspirations of children, parents and community to enable our children to thrive within their own community.

“From day one we thought that we would take this not as a bolt-on but as something which we could embed throughout our curriculum.

“We offered the children a Job Swap Day, which was a lot of fun.

“We put a big campaign together, along with an engaging video which was shared on our social media channels, asking for applications for various roles at our school.

“Children had to request an application form, fill it in at home with their parents and go through the whole interview process at school with our NQTs and learning support assistants. We held interviews and successfully appointed a head teacher, office manager and site manager who, just for the day, took on those roles themselves.

“The day itself it was a celebration of career-related learning and the children received a reference which they could then put in their transition folder. It was a great whole-school event, where we made sure there was a mix of children from different year groups involved in the process – all with covid safe restrictions in place.”

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Local businesses such as Rolls-Royce, coaching company Premier Sports and Penguin PR have already volunteered their services to Our Future Derby.

Some, like Penguin PR and Navjot Sawhney, founder of The Washing Machine Project; a charity set up in 2018 which aims to alleviate the burden of washing clothes for thousands of hard-hit families and communities around the world, have contributed ‘career journey’ videos to Our Future Derby to inspire others developed by project delivery partner Learn By Design.

Meanwhile Haider Ali, who works as a Management Accountancy apprentice at Rolls-Royce, took part in a STEM event for pupils in school years 3-6 – youngsters between the ages of seven and 11 – at St James CoE Junior School; the Reginald Road school he attended as a child 10 years ago.

“In a small city like Derby, it can often be hard to dream big, so I think Our Future Derby initiative is a great way to break down that narrative and help fix these problems,” he said.

“The first event I got involved in was a full day STEM event at my old school. Also having two younger brothers currently attending the school I saw it as a fantastic opportunity to give back to a place that has played a huge part in shaping who I am today.

“The day was extremely successful and included activities for children to explore various topics such as robotics, coding and engineering – these are key skills underpinning today’s digital world.”

Haider says that volunteering is a way of playing a personal part in driving change and tackling problems within society.

He added: “It’s more than just providing a one-off resource and forms part of a much bigger picture.

“Having grown up in Derby, I have seen first-hand how a lack of motivation can make children particularly from deprived areas fall into a trap of undervaluing their potential. This then impedes both their educational attainment and ultimately their career opportunities as they progress through their lives.

“One of the root causes of this is that pupils simply don’t have exposure to everyday role models and not always believing that they can accomplish anything which they put their minds to from a young age.

“As a volunteer, it was great fun to be involved and I took away a lot from the experience. Engaging with younger children in this way helps to develop confidence and emotional intelligence, so it is equally as valuable for volunteers as it is for pupils.”

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