Old pupils help next generation onto right career path in Camden

A group of ex-pupils from Hampstead and Highgate have started a pioneering social project to go back to their old schools and provide careers support and inspiration to the next generation.

Future First began in 2008 when former pupils got together after leaving university to think about how they could help make a difference in schools.

They decided to pilot a project to go into their old schools to help pupils aged 14-19 with career planning and life decisions.

The aim was to harness the power of connections and networking to help state school pupils with career progression.

The original members were from La Sainte Union, William Ellis and Parliament Hill schools in Highgate, and Acland Burghley School in Tufnell Park.

But the project was so successful it is now being run by nine state schools in Camden.

It all began at William Ellis School, in Highgate Road, where co-founder, Jake Hayman, went to school.

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He said: “I had been working in America and coming back to the UK I wanted to get involved in the community and start by making a difference in schools. I felt by bringing in role models we could add something to traditional careers advice.”

Each participating school has the use of an interactive website as well as up to eight visits from old pupils every year for five years.

Pupils have the chance to question groups of three to 10 former pupils about the choices to be made and mistakes to be avoided.

“At first the students can be sceptical, but once they realise you went to the same school all of a sudden they want to listen,” said Mr Hayman, who works as business consultant as well as running Future First.

“They realise that we are just like them, that we started from the same place. I think that makes the difference.”

Mentors are chosen for their passion for their work or occupation, and must have attended the school they want to help.

Future First currently has young City workers, famous musicians, artists and architects on its books, who will have helped 10,000 students by the end of the year.

The schools pay a minimal charge for the service, which is heavily subsidised by trusts and grants, and all the former pupils who act as role models give up their time as volunteers.

In the future the project hopes to offer a wide programme of social and educational support in Camden and beyond.