"I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was greatly inspired by a group of fierce, academic women who taught me at my senior school - Bolton School Girls’ Division."

Sally-Anne Huang - Old Girl and Headmistress

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Alumni Inspire at Career Day

Friday, 26 February 2016

Bolton School welcomed back fifteen alumni who returned to speak to Boys’ and Girls’ Division pupils in Years 11 to 13 as part of a special Alumni Careers Day. This was arranged to allow pupils to hear from a variety of speakers, all from different areas of employment, who had once been Bolton School pupils themselves.

The keynote speaker for the day was Charlie Ball, the Head of Higher Education Intelligence at Graduate Prospects. After leaving Bolton School in 1988, he studied Chemistry at the University of Warwick followed by a Master’s degree at the University of Manchester, and eventually received his Doctorate in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Warwick. However, he decided that he did not want to be an academic as he previously thought. He realised that he was good at explaining the data that he had gathered, and so moved in a different direction. He is now a specialist in Higher Education and graduate employment, and has built his own position at the career guidance service Graduate Prospects.

Charlie spoke to the whole of Year 12 about the pros and cons of choosing to attend university. He was able to give a really clear picture of what university has to offer, the costs involved, and what the graduate job market is currently like. This was all useful information for those students currently facing this decision about their future.

Pupils also chose to attend five talks from other Old Boys and Old Girls, based on their own interests. There really was a wide variety to choose from: Fiona Ashworth (Barrister), Bilal Barkatali (Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon), Tom Besford (Arts and Heritage Manager at the Rochdale Boroughwide Cultural Trust), Grace Gordon (Entrepreneur), Timothy Hatton (Architect), Florence Hughes (Fashion Designer), Sarah Hutton (Ogden Science Officer at University College London), Flying Officer Paul Hutton (RAF Trainee Helicopter Pilot), Stephen Lintott (Solicitor), Ben Lomas (Client Director, Finance), Vicky Lyle (Physiotherapist), Kate Parr (Accountant), Paul Skeels (Pilot, British Airways), and Emily Whittle (Speech and Language Therapist).

All fifteen alumni kindly gave up their time to speak to pupils, with some staying after their talks had ended to answer a host of questions from individuals. They were able to pass on their expertise in their field and gave great tips and advice to the pupils looking to advance in similar areas.

It was also good for the pupils to hear about the sometimes unexpected paths that alumni have taken to reach this point in their careers. For example, Tom Besford studied Philosophy at university, but it was his involvement with organising concerts and events during his studies that led to a job as a freelance events manager, working in concert venues and at festivals across the country. This has in turn fed into his current role managing heritage and culture in Rochdale. Many of the alumni could share similarly interesting stories of their career progression which showed pupils the varied options that lie ahead.

Surgeon Bilal Barkatali, physiotherapist Vicky Lyle and speech and language therapist Emily Whittle were also able to give a great insight into three different areas of the medical profession, which was very useful for those considering this route. These three talks also helped pupils by explaining the importance of work experience and volunteering, and how such activities can help to provide a differentiating factor on university applications. Pupils also got a sense of the different specialisms they might like to pursue within the medical career.

Pupils were particularly excited to meet young entrepreneur Grace Gordon, who set up her own business specialising in leather products. She gave an inspiring talk about how she went about this and what was involved, and also offered great advice to pupils considering setting up their own businesses at the end.

The Alumni Career Day was a great opportunity for pupils to meet Old Boy and Old Girls from a wide variety of careers, some of which they may not have considered before. They received lots of information about different career options and helpful guidance for the future from all of the speakers.

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Entrepreneur Grace Gordon with some pupils who attended her talk

Entrepreneur Grace Gordon with some pupils who attended her talk

Charlie Ball spoke to Year 12 pupils about graduates

Charlie Ball spoke to Year 12 pupils about graduates' prospects

Emily Whittle talked about what her work as a speech and language therapist involves

Emily Whittle talked about what her work as a speech and language therapist involves