By Dan Matthews

On Wednesday 5th June, almost 120 year nine pupils from Hastings and St Leonards commuted to Canary Wharf in London for a unique careers experience arranged by the Hastings Opportunity Area (HOA). The students, from Hastings Academy, Ark William Parker, Ark Helenswood and St Leonards Academy, were hosted by some of the world’s biggest multinationals, including Citibank, ANZ Bank, Clearstream, Fitch Ratings and Barclays. They took part in a range of workshops, Q & As and tours around skyscrapers and trade floors. 

Year Nines at Canary Wharf
PIC: Kneecap

Dylan, Alyssia and Owen (all 14) from St Leonards Academy talk us through their day:

What did you know about Canary Wharf before the trip and what were you expecting to find from the day?

Dylan: I’m not actually sure what I’d like to do when I’m older, so I was hoping this trip would open my eyes up to new stuff. I didn’t really have any idea what jobs go on in Canary Wharf – I thought it would be some office jobs, security and receptionists. I’ve never been there before but I’ve driven past it. I knew it was an important place so I was hoping I’d find out what goes on inside today. 

Owen: I was expecting to find out what various jobs there are in that sector of banks. When I’m older I’d be really interested to do something in business. I was hoping it would give us some guidance for the future so we know what we’re going to do. I also wanted to get a sense of what it’s like in the offices. 

Alyssia: I thought it was going to be really busy and very crowded. I didn’t know what many of the jobs were before – I thought it was going to be loads of bankers and then security for the money and people who work in the shops. 

What did you make of the trip?

Dylan: I thought it was amazing! 

Alyssia: It looked like a stereotypical city, with big buildings like in a film. I thought it was really cool how everything works. I was expecting it to be really busy with people running around, but everyone was really calm and everything worked very smoothly. 

Owen: I thoroughly enjoyed it, I’m really happy now!

Which bank did you go to, and what did you learn?

Dylan: We went to Citibank. It’s like a big family almost. There are lots of job opportunities, lots of training opportunities. I’m really surprised to be honest. 

Alyssia: It was very inspiring to see how many people make an impact with their jobs and you don’t even realise. 

Owen: The banking industry has a lot of different jobs to offer. Computer programming, and marketing. You don’t think about that when you think about banking. It’s made me think about doing a job like that myself. 

Alyssia: We asked questions about their daily routines, their wages and what they enjoyed about their jobs. It was interesting to hear that quite a few of them had actually done different jobs and switched around roles themselves. So they had experience in one part of the bank, or done an apprenticeship and then moved to a different role within the same place. 

Dylan: It was very exciting for me. I’ve basically learned what a bank does, instead of going there to get your money, they have loads of ties to companies. It’s a big responsibility because if they crash, the companies crash. 

Action Jackson
PIC: Kneecap

What did you learn from the speakers?

Dylan: We met an inspirational speaker called Action Jackson. He told us about a metaphorical glass ceiling, where you can see your hopes and ambitions on the other side, but you can’t reach them because of the glass. But he said to persevere and work hard, then you can get whatever you dream. What most motivated me was that he got a D in English GCSE, and yet he’s published a book. He’s gone so far despite what society says we can do. 

Alyssa: Action Jackson taught us about the elevator pitch. When you meet people you only have one first impression, so he told us how to make a good one. 

Owen: After that we met Richard Meddings. He told us his story about how he got to where he was. He’s the Chairman of TSB, so a very important person – it’s great to hear that from someone like that, and know that he’s just a normal person. 

Alyssia: I don’t know if I’d like to do a job like that because it seems very serious and office related and that isn’t what I want to be doing, but for him it seemed like it really suited him and that he enjoyed it. It’s important to do things you care about and I think it’s really inspiring that he wanted something, and he put his mind to it and actually went and did it.

The trip was part of the Hastings Opportunity Area’s commitment to improving careers experiences in Hastings and St Leonards and was arranged in partnership with Career Ready*. “Some of the kids today will have got on the tube for the first time and seen Canary Wharf, which is a remarkable centre in terms of the scale of the buildings, the number of people and the intensity” said Richard Meddings, Chair of the HOA. “It’s a change of experience. It’s about energy, resilience and hard work and attitude and ambition – and then the world is full of opportunity.”

Cordelia MacMillan, Assistant Principal at Hastings Academy also attended the trip. “They were blown over, stepping out of the tube, looking up at the sky scrapers, to what felt like New York – it was a step into unknown territory. But, actually it was a real reality check, because meeting people like Action Jackson and the workers at Citibank, they realised that was a future they could easily have – and that’s what’s important about an event like today.” 

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or contact Dan here: [email protected]

• See a short film about the school children’s day here

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