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Andrew Pickin, Shoosmiths and Top Valley Academy, Nottingham

'It was fascinating to see the students engage with the possibility that anyone can potentially set up a business of their own if they have the skills and ideas to make it a success.'

This challenges our staff to step out of their comfort zone, but we have invariably found that when they do so, they find the opportunity to interact with young people to be refreshing and stimulating.

- Andrew Pickin,
Shoosmiths
Shoosmiths got involved with Business Class for a number of reasons. First, while we had previously engaged with schools through initiatives such as the right to read and mock interviews, we had not found a means to build an ongoing relationship. BITC explained to us that Business Class enables a business and schools/academies to find the right partner in their area to develop an ongoing relationship.

Secondly, the needs based analysis on which the partnership is founded ensures that all joint activities and events align with the Academy’s agenda, which may develop from year-to-year. 

Top Valley Academy, our Partner, had historically had a focus on engineering skills. Partnering with an organisation such as Shoosmiths was consistent with the Academy’s desire to broaden the understanding of students/pupils with regard to careers in other areas such as professional services.

There have been many moments when our partnership has had an impact on Top Valley students. One great example was the work experience day we held at our offices in the summer of 2013.

Around ten Top Valley pupils attended and heard from different members of Shoosmiths’ staff about their personal career journeys. These ranged from solicitors to PAs and other support staff. On that occasion we also invited a young tech-entrepreneur to come in to speak to the pupils about his experience in setting up a successful web-based business, and raising finance from third parties for the business.

It was fascinating to see the students engage with the possibility that anyone can potentially set up a business of their own if they have the skills and ideas to make it a success.

Commenting on the positive impact Business Class has had on our business, I can do no better than to share a quote from one of my colleagues who became a Partner in our business in 2013. 

She recently said:

“Whilst Shoosmiths is a national firm we have a strong local presence in Nottingham, having been in the region for more than 25 years. I personally, and I know the Nottingham Partners feels the same, believe that working on such programmes in partnership with local businesses, schools, individuals and organisations is important in enabling us to give something back to the local community in which we live and work. 

"We have such a strong sense of community spirit in the office and our teams are always willing to volunteer for charitable and community projects. This is fantastic from an altruistic point of view but it is also a brilliant way in which we can engage with our staff at all levels and pull together on projects – the programme has been great at helping cross-discipline working and encourage team working.”

The legal and professional services sectors present great career opportunities for many students at schools and academies but many have no idea of what day to day work involves and how rewarding and interesting this work can be. Businesses can, with a little planning and some imagination, easily introduce students to the work we do. 

This challenges our staff to step out of their comfort zone, but we have invariably found that when they do so, they find the opportunity to interact with young people to be refreshing and stimulating. We take for granted the knowledge we have about the world of work, but many students are genuinely interested to know what holding down a job is really like. By engaging with Business Class, companies have an opportunity to share their knowledge and experience in a structured way.