Understand the school’s expectations
Not all careers events are the same. You may be asked to man an exhibition stand, give a talk, attend a speed networking event or take part in something entirely different. You’ll need to confirm the practical arrangements with the event organiser including things like:
- how much space and time you’ll have;
- when you’ll be able to arrive to set up your stand;
- how many students will be attending and how old they are, and;
- whether it’s possible for materials to be delivered directly to the venue.
Tailor your message
School careers events are generally held when pupils are deciding which subjects they’ll choose to study. This happens at several times during the school career and it can help to tailor your messages to the age of the audience.
For pupils aged between 13 and 16, the most important message is to study mathematics and a relevant science subject to keep their options open. They’ll also benefit from general information on the variety of engineering careers and routes into engineering. The 'Make a difference - be an engineer' presentation and careers resource pack from Tomorrow’s Engineers is useful.
Pupils between 17 and 18 years will generally know if they want to follow a career in the engineering profession, but may not have decided which discipline they’re most interested in. They’ll be particularly interested in your experiences and so an IET focus is appropriate for this age range. Information on the IET’s awards and scholarships, IET accredited degree courses and IET approved apprenticeships will be appreciated.
Make sure you arrive in plenty of time to arrange the materials and make contact with other stand holders. It’s useful to introduce yourself to the other exhibitors so that you’re aware of organisations and companies you can direct pupils to for any information you can’t provide. You should also let it be known that you’re available to provide information about engineering careers.
Talking to young people
If you’ve not had much experience of talking to young people, starting a conversation can be quite difficult, particularly if the pupil is nervous or shy. Remember that it could be the pupil’s first careers convention and so you could try to start the conversation, perhaps by asking a question yourself. If you do, try not to begin by asking a question which could easily finish a conversation, for example ‘Can I help you?’ lays you open to ‘No’. If you ask an open question like ‘What do you think of this?’ or ‘What subjects are you studying?’, monosyllabic answers become a bit more difficult.
Being sure of exactly what to say about engineering can also be difficult. Remember that pupils won’t be expecting a professional PR executive. Instead, they’ll be much more interested to talk to someone who has first-hand experience of engineering and who can present a fair picture of what it is to be an engineer. You may want to think about answers to these types of questions:
- what is engineering?
- what do engineers do?
- what does engineering achieve?
- where are engineers employed?
- what types of engineer are there?
- what makes an engineer?
- what are the career opportunities?
- which local employers offer job opportunities?
The Tomorrow's Engineers resource pack has information about commonly asked questions and can help you formulate answers to some of the questions above.
After the event
If there’s literature left over, the school may want to keep this for their careers library. You can also direct them to the IET Faraday Secondary website for more information.