4C UR Future, the industry-led social enterprise that aims to empower young people to make better informed decisions about their education pathways and future careers, held a successful pilot 4C UR Future LIVE event at Blair Mayne Wellbeing & Leisure Complex in Newtownards on June 7, 2022.
The event was attended by over 700 Year 9 students from schools across the borough.
Founded by engineer and business leader Rose Mary Stalker, 4C UR Future works with over 80 local employers to create an exciting, action-packed day that enables students to identify their own strengths and interests, relative to those that are in demand by different sectors.
“4C UR Future LIVE was designed from the very beginning to be at-scale and to be inclusive, with as many businesses and sectors as possible represented throughout.
“We’re encouraging young people, before they make their GCSE choices, to look at the vast range of companies working in Northern Ireland today, look at the wide range of sectors, and by playing games explore their own strengths and attributes.”
The 4C UR Future LIVE events are a departure from typical employment and careers seminars and instead embrace a more interactive, hands-on approach. Pupils have the opportunity to participate in an exciting range of skills games and work-based activities, each of which is co-designed with and facilitated by local employers.
“Some games they will love, some games they will hate, some they’ll find easy and some they’ll find hard,” explained Rose Mary, adding: “That’s important information for them to consider when thinking about what they might like to do in the future.”
Mayor of Ards and North Down Borough Council, Councillor Karen Douglas, was in attendance and said that she and the council were “delighted” to support the event.
“It’s about giving our young people an opportunity to tap into different skills and try different experiences in terms of what they might want to do in their future. It’s innovative and it’s great to see the private and public sectors coming together for this event.
“These are our young people, so we want to make sure we’re working with partner agencies to ensure that we offer a range of support services to let them grow and thrive in the borough.”
The Mayor also praised the atmosphere of the event itself, acknowledging the interactive, engaging approach that 4C UR Future takes compared to a traditional careers fair.
“Everybody is so energetic,” said Cllr Karen Douglas. “Some pupils said they were put out of their comfort zone, but they were given the chance to do things they’d never done before. There’s a real wow factor.”
Thanks to the games and activities on offer, students come away from the event with a greater knowledge of the future world of work and a better understanding of their own skills and abilities. The activities are varied and cover multiple sectors, giving students the opportunity to discover and develop an insight into potential careers they may not have previously considered.
Also in attendance at this LIVE event was Education Minister, Michelle McIlveen, who stressed the importance of empowering young people with information.
“As part of our young people’s education journey, it is so important that they have access to the information and experiences that will help to shape their future career path.
“That is exactly what the 4C UR Future LIVE initiative aims to do. These innovative events across Northern Ireland are giving thousands of Year 9 pupils an early opportunity to explore their talents and skills.
“Navigating the careers landscape can be very daunting, but these events will help to inspire and empower young people to make choices that are right for them.”
4C UR Future Managing Director, Rachel Doherty, is keen to get the message across, that it is crucial to reach students at the right age and raise their awareness to help them navigate the complex careers landscape.
“Through 4C UR Future LIVE events and our first-generation CAREERS PORTAL, which is launching in September, we aim to inform young people of the wide range of opportunities available to them, help them navigate the complex careers landscape, and inspire them to achieve their ambitions and become the best version of themselves.”
On how these events are different from traditional careers fairs, Rachel said: “It’s the energy. It’s the buzz. There’s live music, it’s fast paced, the pupils are engaged and playing games. They’re finding out what they’re good at, there’s a little healthy competition, and they’re supporting each other.
Over 700 students from five local schools attended the careers inspiration event, accompanied by teachers and school staff members.
Head of Careers at Regent House Grammar School, Caroline McNeice said that it was amazing to see the pupils enjoy themselves and interact with the volunteers at game zones and with each other.
“There’s a huge buzz and it’s much more interactive. It’s not just your usual event when you go up to places and chat to staff,” she said, adding: “Just seeing the smiles on their faces, how interactive they’ve been, their team building skills and hearing what they’ve really enjoyed is amazing. It’s great to see their reflection about their skills and hearing what they can achieve.”
Besides the game zones and the industry volunteers, students get the chance to interact with their peers from different schools in the borough.
Careers Teacher Mark Suitor, from Priory Integrated College, confirmed that getting pupils out of the classroom and into real-life career scenarios has been a welcome change for both staff and students.
“Instead of sitting in a classroom all day, they get to come here and experience interactive game zones.
“Not only are they getting to experience ten different activities, but they’re also mixing very well. The volunteers are mixing the schools up, which is great because you’re seeing a lot of conversations going on.”
With the impact of the pandemic still making itself known in an already highly competitive job market, it has never been as important for students to have opportunities to develop skills that are highly sought after in the workplace.
The 4C UR Future LIVE events give students the power to interact with employers from various sectors, giving them an insight into the roles and responsibilities of different careers.
History Teacher, Gareth Bole from Strangford Integrated College, said that events like 4C UR Future LIVE are perfect for this age group to begin the journey of thinking about their careers.
“In order for kids to make the right decisions next year, getting them thinking about their future and thinking about what they might like to do is very important. They need to get their GCSE choices right, before they progress to Further or Higher Education.”
4C UR Future is running a series of 11 LIVE events as an at-scale pilot across Northern Ireland, supported by 10 councils, during the month of June. The full schedule can be found on the Events page of 4C UR Future’s website.