I volunteered with Young Enterprise 2 weeks ago and I cannot stop thinking about it.
The whole set-up right from the beginning was blog-writing-inducing, to be honest (and that comes from someone who does not blog).
Firstly, thanks to the direction of James Baldwin, my volunteering with Young Enterprise for the consequent 2 days was set up in 5 minutes. Secondly, the two schools could not have been more worlds apart: the first was in East London where 90% of the children in my class were from ethnic minority backgrounds, and the second, a secondary school, was just a stone’s throw away from Harrods.
Adventures started straight away: as soon as I arrived at the school in East London, I was asked if I was from Goldman Sachs- This was certainly not one of the questions that I expected to hear. As it turned out later, Goldman Sachs were also holding a corporate citizenship day that they had planned “months in advance”. So there I was in the teaching room, sharing sandwiches with the bankers discussing their marketing strategy and sharing more about Accenture’s 3 days volunteering policy. Before that happened I had the challenge of making a 30-strong bunch of boisterous 8 year-olds actually listen. I said that I was about to start working in virtual reality (day dream / “say something cool”) and boom! It worked.
What does virtual reality mean? – “Virtual reality tricks your brain into thinking that what you feel is real” – Maghish, 8 years old. Can we just pause to appreciate the beauty of this simplicity? Someone hire this kid now. A week later I wished he had also told me what “a bitcoin” was in simple terms when I faced Gordon Clark and wine. When I asked the same question to 14-year-olds in the Knightsbridge secondary school I got a range of big words “it is a feeling, sensation, imagination...”. Totally different ways of thinking!
Sessions in both school were designed in a similar way – a Young Enterprise representative delivered a teaching module on building business in the city and as a volunteer facilitator I pitched in with real-life examples and moved from group to group asking probing questions about shaping their businesses. Eight -year-old East Londoners were tasked in pairs with building their own restaurants and thinking about their target audience. I was fascinated that most of the pairs had a strong aspect of international culture to their restaurants that would serve a selection of the “best food” from different cultures However, when it came to presenting to the whole class most of the children got very worried and shielded their faces behind sheets of paper.
East Londoners had a very practical approach to their future business with a strong focus on the people who would use it. The story was quite different in Knightsbridge where 14-year-olds went on a tour of wild imagination. They were presenting their vision of what they wanted their world to be like with customers’ wishes being a secondary factor, whereas East Londoners were all about “how will this business make money”. I stirred the Knightsbridge lot towards bigger customer-focus – “your restaurant is next to a motorway but does not have parking so where can I safely leave my Lamborghini?” (in my next life that is). Why Harrods is not the ideal supplier of strawberries was more difficult to explain.
I came away from those 2 days thinking that children really benefit from seeing a practical application of their knowledge in the business-focused sessions led by Young Enterprise, even better if they hear more about what is going on in the professional world. Afterall, many of the future jobs that we are preparing them for may not even exist right now. I believe it is our duty to share the knowledge about the importance of technology with the next generation and shape up their understanding of the “real world”. But also take inspiration from them about what they would like their future world to look like.
Gym that serves cocktails and mocktails as part of membership “Weights down, drinks up” – Primary School, Knightsbridge
Choosing where to put a stadium in an already-built city –Primary School, East London