118: what do you want to be when you grow up?

This week I was invited to be part of an event at New City College’s Epping Forest campus, which is where Thing 1 is going in September to study Theatrical, Special Effects, Hair and Media Make-up. She has a plan: she wants to do this A-level equivalent qualification and then wants to be apprenticed to a tattoo artist. It’ll use her art skills, she enjoys it and there are a number of career routes she can go down after this. University is not for everyone, and if that’s the route she wants to take then my job is to support her (I may draw the line at being a tester for mad make up though). I had no clue what I wanted to do at 16 (I was 29 by the time I worked it out) so this sort of plan is pretty impressive.

The event was a business breakfast followed by a speed-dating style mock interview session with some of the students, which I always enjoy as I’m really nosy I like interviewing people. It was also an opportunity for me to network with the curriculum managers whose courses the museum could be supporting. We discussed cultural capital, which has slipped down the priority list even further since Covid. I have already been in to the college a few times to work with the childcare students about learning through play, and a few years back I spoke to the Skills for Life group about careers.

Organised by Jill, the Industry Placements and Work Experience Manager for the New City College group, the breakfast and interviews were a great event where I got to meet an adorable wedding and bespoke evening dress designer, a local policeman, people from the local secondary schools, people from a nursery franchise who have worked with my beloved for years, an ex-policeman now specialising in safeguarding and business development, and a transformational life coach (OK, this was my friend Miriam) as well as others.

I met lots of students, too – well, 12 of them, as we each saw three students in each ‘speed’ session. We’d been given a set of questions in three sections, and the plan was that with the first student we’d ask questions from the first section (the usual ‘why this role/why you’ queries); with the second question and student we’d ask them more about themselves; and the third student would be asked questions about career and ambition. None of the students had any idea they were about to be subjected to this, and had been dragged kicking and screaming (or at least slouching and mumbling) from their learning rooms.

We had a real mix of abilities and courses: childcare and cabin crew in the first session; drama and Skills for Life in session two; and business and IT in sessions three and four. Some of the students were clear, confident and launched into the spirit of things. One of the cabin crew students made me laugh (internally of course) when I asked her what she’d do if a customer arrived who was late for check in and was being quite forceful: her immediate reaction was ‘call security’ and if – and only if – the customer apologised to her properly then she’d talk to them. Then she told me that the most important skill needed in the cabin crew role was communication and customer service. Bless. The business students all wanted to do events management, as they’d clearly just had a module on this, and the IT students just wanted to lurk in a basement and solve people’s problems remotely (why yes, The IT Crowd was actually a documentary, didn’t you know?).

Based on a true story?

My favourite group were the Skills for Life students, many of whom needed a lot of encouragement to come and talk to us. Jill brought me a particularly anxious one with a ‘come and talk to my friend Kirsty, she’s lovely’. The student, A, was so clearly uncomfortable that I set aside the questions and we just had a chat: A told me that they didn’t know what they wanted to do, but they really loved video games and drawing. Their parents had told them that this was rubbish and they’d never get a job doing that, so we talked about all the different aspects of game design (storyboarding, writing, artwork, sound design etc) that weren’t coding and I told them about Rex Crowle and his career in game design. I asked them if they’d heard about Big Creative Education who do game design courses as well as other creative skills, and then at the end of the session I introduced them to another lovely person rather than leave them floundering. I made a point of speaking to them at the end of the session, giving them the web address of BCE, and suggesting they looked at the journey planner on TfL.

I spent some time after meeting A fuming quietly about people who don’t support their kids: it’s really hard to remember at times, but our dreams are not theirs.


Another student from this group, E, was also brought over to me. Her passion was drag shows, which she travels all over the country to see, and she wanted to be a make up artist because of this. She had no idea about the theatrical and special effects make up course, so I signposted that and suggested she spoke to her tutors about it. We didn’t do any interview questions, but both A and E went away feeling reassured and having broken through a barrier about talking to unknown adults.

Miriam and I debriefed over lunch at Fresko in Debden Broadway and put the world to rights before heading home for an afternoon of meetings, an evening mercy dash bearing coffee to Harlow, and ferrying the kids to Scouts where Thing 3 managed to get covered in tie dye despite wearing an apron.

Things making me happy this week:

  • the epilogue for the last D&D campaign
  • building my character for the next campaign
  • a cool pool on very hot days
  • fresh strawberries, loganberries and raspberries from the garden
  • watching the parakeets
  • the 11 degree drop in the bedroom temperature last night! The cats were also grateful (see a melted Lulu in this week’s cover image)
  • more excellent course feedback
  • making jewellery for the school fete
  • tiny coot chicks cheeping on the lake this morning

See you next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

A Question of Identity/The Soul of Discretion/The Comforts of Home/The Benefit of Hindsight- Susan Hill

The Midnight Hour – Elly Griffiths

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