Governors for Schools believe that careers education is crucial for the long-term success of young people. School governors are in an excellent position to be able to support school leadership teams to build a career provision that is robust and enables all students to meet their potential. There are many organisations across the country that support young people to achieve their potential and consider careers they never thought possible.

As part of the ‘All pupils, every ambition: Future work’ campaign, we are pleased to share the insights of Colin Ferguson, a school governor and the General Manager of Altitude Foundation, who has shared his views around careers education, and how his organisation inspires young people to pursue careers in technology.

Can you tell us why you became a governor?

I’ve always been enthusiastic about the power of education to transform people’s lives. At the time I first became a governor, I was looking for opportunities to enhance my career development outside my regular role. Governing seemed like a great way to do that whilst aligning with a key interest of mine and giving something back to the local community.

It turned out I was right!

What skills from your role as a governor have you been able to take to other areas of your life?

There are many practical skills I’ve picked up that have proven useful: chairing meetings, scrutinising datasets, understanding safeguarding, and compliance with statutory requirements. All of these things have been incredibly useful in helping to secure, and develop in, my current role as General Manager of Altitude Foundation.

However, I’ve also developed a number of soft skills that have a wide range of transferable applications: time management, particularly balancing multiple, competing priorities; influencing and negotiating, because being a governor isn’t like being a manager.

What does the Altitude Foundation aim to do?

We are an ambitious charity that seeks to become a beacon of excellence in tackling social mobility in the North East of England. We want to create a world where all young people with a passion for technology are enabled to smash barriers to achieve a successful career.

Too many young people don’t reach their full potential due to socio-economic circumstances. Regionally, young people’s life chances get relatively worse, from secondary school onwards. This is especially true for routes into STEM.

Altitude Foundation provides a long-term, targeted, evidence-based programme, with the support of key partners, particularly schools, enabling participants to smash barriers and achieve a successful career in the technology sector. We provide access to the finance, social capital, opportunities, and supportive relationships needed to succeed in tertiary education and beyond.

Is there anything about the Foundation that you would like governors or those interested in governance to know?

Our work is closely aligned with the Gatsby Good Careers Guidance benchmarks. This is a deliberate choice because I know how challenging it can be for schools to meet all eight within current constraints. That means that governing bodies can be assured that, when you work with Altitude, we are closely aligned with your strategic priorities.

What is your opinion of careers education – how important is it in the current climate?

Good careers education is vital. If good outcomes are the foundation of young people’s future success, then high-quality careers guidance is the toolkit by which they build on those foundations to secure a happy, rewarding career.

In my experience professionally, and as a governor, too many young people are simply unaware of the opportunities available to them and how to access them. Without good role models, meaningful careers experiences, and a clear understanding of how to get from their current position to the career of the future, career routes are all too often shut off prematurely.

At Altitude, we know that many young people are making fundamental decisions by Year 9: if we want to encourage more young women into STEM and digital careers, we need to start our careers support earlier and sustain it throughout their schooling.

What advice would you give to a person thinking of applying to become a governor?

Go for it!

Being a governor is one of the most enjoyable, challenging, and rewarding experiences I’ve had to date. I feel immensely fortunate to have had the opportunity to be involved in the schools I’ve volunteered with. You won’t regret it!

This article, as with all of this term’s campaign resources, was made possible through the support of  Allen & Overy. 

To find out more about the All pupils, every ambition: Future work campaign see our website.