A HOST of people from a spectrum of professions offered advice in helping bright youngsters a chance to unlock their future careers at Lydiard Park Academy yesterday.

Around 100 students in Years 10 to 13, from four schools and two colleges across the town, took part in a question and answer session with a panel of guests from industries such as law, accounting, marketing, journalism and scientific research.

The event was organised by the Villiers Park Educational Trust, a charity which works with handpicked students, or scholars, who have the potential to make it to university but may not have the means to do so.

The panel, which included Preena Mistry from Intel, Vijay Tanna from Baker Tilly and Jenny Bratherton from Excalibur Communications, were grilled for around an hour on how they made it into their respective industries and what the next generation could do to make themselves employable.

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A student questions the panel

Villiers Park chief executive Richard Gould said the first-of-its-kind event for the trust was a success.

“The diversity of the careers on the panel was great and the similarities between the skills each one needed was incredible,” he said.

“I think the scholars found it engaging and relevant.

“We have been influenced by some research that suggests there is a huge difference in the take up of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who go to university and get the same grade as someone with a different background..”

Panellist John Blake, a research scientist at Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells, found himself in demand, with several students expressing strong interest in a career in the sciences.

He said: “The kids were really interested, asking some well thought out questions.

“It’s nice to know the next generation are interested in the sciences – when you are working in the industry you can begin to think you are a bit segregated but a few of the students were really keen to know more.”

Lydiard Park Academy headteacher Clive Zimmerman said he was pleased the school was involved with the project.

“What we have seen since we have been involved with Villiers Park is more and more children have been open about their aspirations, particularly of going to university,” he said.