‘Don’t be afraid to dream’: Volunteers rouse the crowd at Inspiring Young Men event

Handy advice: entrepreneur Richard Blackburn teaches pupils about first impressions. Photograph: Young Hackney

Young men from various Hackney schools got a chance to hear from firefighters, entrepreneurs and charity workers at a motivational careers event last week.

Inspiring Young Men, organised by the council’s Young Hackney service, saw 17 local professionals share their stories and offer informal advice to secondary school students.

More than 50 youngsters attended the event at the Forest Road Youth Hub – from City Academy, Stoke Newington School, Hackney New School, Skinners’ Academy and Swanlea School.

Guest speakers included company director Richard Blackburn, who now runs his own multimillion-pound recruitment company after leaving school with only a few GCSEs.

He was joined by firefighters Ben Fox and Richard Reid, fitness entrepreneur Matt Lo and Reg Amoah from the East London Business Alliance (ELBA), a charity focused on social mobility.

Group exercise: fitness boss Matt Lo chats to youngsters. Photograph: Young Hackney

Lo, founder of Outrivals, said: “It’s good for young people to know there are different options in life, and to feel that they can be open minded when thinking about their future.

“I hope young people can learn that you will get far with a good work ethic, and that you shouldn’t be afraid to dream, as dreams can take you a long way.”

The audience listened to speeches and took part in informal discussion groups with all of the volunteers, including Hackney Council officers, apprentices, film industry professionals and tech experts.

Fox, who did many other jobs before joining the fire service, said after the event: “Days like today are great for finding out there are many different job roles out there, in our case it’s not just a fire engine rushing past on the way to an emergency, there are actually loads of other things going on behind that.

“Though you may start with one job, there are no straight career paths in life, so even if you are unsure, you may start in one place but it can lead you to somewhere you love.”

Hot tips: firefighter Richard Reid takes to the stage. Photograph: Young Hackney

The speakers gave valuable insights into their successes and failures, and how they’ve helped them grow and achieve.

The young men discussed their dreams and aspirations and learned how volunteering and hobbies can be crucial in their future careers.

The groups also talked about the importance of first impressions, even practicing handshakes and eye contact.

Mahin Ahmed, a Year 9 pupil from Swanlea School, said: “It was great hearing from different people who chose different paths for their careers.

“It’s great to learn about how they made mistakes but learned from them, and that it doesn’t matter if you made a mistake or not because you will learn a thing or two.”

Stoke Newington School’s (SNS) careers manager Juliet Alexander said: “It was a great opportunity for our young boys to meet such inspirational men and hear about their journeys. I think it helped to motivate them to do better in their studies.

“It was wonderful the way these busy professionals took time out to enthuse and inform our students, many of whom do not have strong male role models.”

Alexander said her students particularly enjoyed hearing from a former SNS pupil who left with only a few GCSEs but is now a full-time gas fitter.

Young Hackney chief Pauline Adams paid tribute to all the volunteers, and added: “It’s important for Hackney’s young people to hear about a diverse range of careers, from setting up your own business to working in the emergency services.

“Events like this give young people the opportunity not only to network with professionals but to think more widely about what they can achieve in their futures and feel inspired.”

For more information about Young Hackney and its upcoming events, visit younghackney.org or follow @younghackney on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter.

If you want to find out more about volunteering with young people, contact xanthippi.karkantou@hackney.gov.uk.

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