Monday, 16 July 2018

Removing the Biggest Barrier to Young People’s Aspirations

We can give the next generation the spark to ready them for the future says Antony Jinman. 

What would you like to be when you leave school? Were you asked as a child? Perhaps you remember what you said. A footballer; farmer; engineer; doctor; nurse; astronaut? 

Whatever the response, the point is that our dreams matter. Becoming a physiotherapist because an early love of rugby was nurtured is a great thing. An engineer looking back fondly at childhood memories of building mighty cityscapes from Lego is a great thing. 

Yet so many young people aren’t aware of the career options available, lack the role models (beyond celebrities and sports starts perhaps!) to inspire them and don’t know the practical steps to start considering how to get from where you want to be. 

Antony's Career Journey 

We’re in the midst of exam season, a time of stress for many when pathways are set and the next steps are taken, academic or otherwise. For me it certainly wasn’t academic progress. At secondary school I became disillusioned about what I wanted to do. I hoped to go to university but failed my A Levels. 

A lot of my teachers at my school would dictate information, or get students to read aloud for the class, to note down. I struggled. It was when I turned 21, in the Royal Navy that I found out I am dyslexic. This a condition completely missed during my time in education and meaning that the system wasn't designed for a young person like me.

I never really knew what I wanted to do and have always been searching for my place in the world. But looking back, even during the directionless periods of my life, there was something that helped propel me forwards. 

Fascinated by a Frozen World

During primary school, I learnt about Captain Scott and the Antarctica, this frozen continent fascinated me, especially the animals, because it was so different to my South Devon doorstep. At age 8 my dream was to see a penguin in Antarctica. 

After A Levels, my careers advice ‘computer printout’ suggested public services. So I joined the Navy, because I knew the Navy went to Antarctica and I might see a penguin. I didn’t get selected to go on HMS Endurance and ended up on HMS Scott. 

In Search of a Dream 

Within two years, I was medically discharged and started working in adventure tourism. And what an adventure is has been. I was 12th Briton to ski to the geographic North pole and solo to the geographic South Pole. I achieved my dream of reaching the South Pole in 2014, but after two trips to the white continent I haven’t yet seen my penguin on ice! 

Today nearly 20 years since leaving school, I am enjoying an entrepreneurial life and helping to contribute my experiences back to society. 

Which brings me back to the question: What would you like to be when you grow up? One aspect of my work now is a desire to help young people with their career aspirations. 

Choosing a Future Career 

Students largely depend on parents and teachers for career inspiration, who may themselves lack business or industry experience. Some 83% of UK schools do not employ career guidance staff resulting in 70% of young people leaving education with no idea what they want to do. Various employment sectors face skills shortages and retention issues, but employers lack the time to send employees to visit schools. 

During my early adventures, I realised that I could connect to schools using a satellite phone, and built a website so pupils could ask me questions. I have seen that being able to communicate from Antarctica with children in schools helps connect young people to the world and raise aspirations. 

In 2009 I founded a social enterprise, Education Through Expeditions, which delivers school visits and polar science workshops. My team and I have now visited over 800 schools. 

It dawned on me that my expeditions could be used as a catalyst to link polar experts (scientists and educators) with schools on the same website. When I last journeyed to Antarctica in 2016, schools were asking me questions directly answerable via my iPhone! I realised I could link any professional person with teachers and students in a similar way. 

A New Beginning: The Launch of

Now that the website is up and running I’m inviting organisations across the South West and wider UK to get involved. I’m delighted that the RNLI, Plymouth City Council, Network Rail, Plymouth School of Creative Arts and PGL just to name a few have joined this networking platform enabling educators and young people to connect with business professionals in industry. 

I believe the biggest barrier to young people’s aspirations is lack of knowledge and understanding of career opportunities available. Helping to smash this barrier enables young people to communicate with employers in the professional world. 

In a digital era where someone can stand on the top of the world and talk with children in a classroom anywhere, we should be doing all we can to equip and inspire young people for the future possibilities. Whatever they may turn out to be it is vital that we help young people answer the question, “When I leave school, I’d like to be….”

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