Speed Networking with Study Higher & Worlds of Opportunity (WOOP)


One of my most satisfying activities this year has been the speed networking event delivered in partnership with Thames Valley and Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership and Adviza.  It recognised the link between high quality careers advice and young people’s aspiration for progression onto higher education.

Raising aspiration for higher education goes hand in hand with effective careers guidance.  Young people need an understanding of the range and type of career roles that might be available to them, and how their educational choices can enable them to achieve their career goals.

Martin Price (HELO) and I regularly attend the Thames Valley and Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) stakeholder meetings and after initial discussions about our ideas for a large scale event, we joined forces with Adviza to scope, plan and deliver a speed networking event for target schools.  Adviza had secured European Social Fund funding for its WOOP (World of Opportunities) initiative and funding was released to cover the project management and marketing for the event by Adviza, with Study Higher covering venue and other event costs.

With support from the LEP, we were able to target employers who reflected the growth areas within Berkshire.  A total of 30 employers were recruited, along with HEI partners.

Interest from Study Higher target schools was high and the sessions were soon booked.   The Green Park Business Park was chosen as the venue due to the facilities available and its convenient location in Reading.

The aim was to involve 500 students and I’m pleased to say we achieved that aim.  In order to accommodate this number of students, the day was split into three distinct sessions, with schools opting to bring their students to one of the three sessions.

Timings for the three sessions were closely managed and some feedback from school staff suggested that if a similar event were to be run, a longer session would enable students to gain even more from the experience.  This format will inform future events within this region and beyond.

For the February 2020 event, plans are being developed for pre and post school-based sessions with participating students.  These sessions will be delivered by Study Higher staff if required, recognising the time constraints on school staff.  A speed networking booklet will be available on the day for students to take detailed notes.

Our partner for February 2020 is Newbury Racecourse, both as a venue and as an active contributor.  They have access to a large number of external and internal employers who could potentially participate in next year’s event.  Planning is already underway for what we hope will be a bigger and even more successful event.

Joanna Ridley (HELO Berkshire)