Prior Park’s annual Inspire! Conference took place on Tuesday, with Sixth Form students engaged and inspired by a day full of incredible speakers. The speakers touched upon the many key ‘entrepreneurial’ and ‘employability’ skills that are hugely relevant in enabling our students to broaden their thinking and allow them to adeptly move themselves through a varied careers path when they leave school.
The day was introduced by BBC Presenter, Alex Lovell, who shared her career path with the students and made sure the audience was awake at the start of day with a game of Heads and Tails!
The first speaker was Anne-Marie Jenkins (class of 2003), MD of The Wedding Shop, the UK and Ireland’s leading and longest established independent wedding list company. Anne-Marie explained her route to the top in retail, via being the youngest store manager at Hobbs, and her decision not to go to university. Anne-Marie talked to the students about, ‘the power of passion, perseverance & self-belief combined with humility’ and reminded them to ‘never be arrogant, because then you stop growing’.
Briony Williams, current contestant of The Great British Bake Off and former teacher of Spanish and French at QEH School in Bristol took to the stage next. She encouraged students saying, ‘if they want something, just go for it, because you will regret it if you don’t. It won’t always be easy, but if you get an opportunity, go for it’. She talked about the importance of working hard, telling students that ‘nothing falls into your lap, you have to work for it’. She also reminded students to use social media in a positive way and ‘use social media for good’. Briony of course shared some inside stories from GBBO, but unfortunately could not reveal who has won this year’s competition!
The last to speak in the morning was Tom Brass (class of 1998), EMMY-award winning Creative Director of Jellyfish Pictures, the multi award-winning animation production company based in London. Tom talked about his journey from GCSE Art at Prior Park through to becoming Creative Director at Jellyfish Pictures, working on features films such as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and animated series like Dennis and Gnasher: Unleashed. His advice to the students was: ‘If you want to work in the arts, be bold and brave and do it. Learning from doing is the most important thing.’
The afternoon sessions began with Fraser Doherty MBE, Founder of Super Jam and Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year. Fraser shared the ups and downs of his incredible business career, which started at the age of just fourteen, using his Gran’s recipes. Since then, SuperJam has grown to supply over 2,000 supermarkets around the world, selling millions of jars along the way. Fraser is also founder of Envelope Coffee and the co-founder of Beer52, the world’s largest craft beer club. In 2008, he established The SuperJam Tea Parties, which runs tea parties for lonely elderly people who live alone or in care homes. His advice to the students was, ‘a good idea doesn’t have to be high-tech of reinvent the wheel. It is possible to make something extraordinary out of something ordinary. He hoped his story showed that, ‘Something that begins as a small idea, with a bit of love and imagination can grow into something amazing - something that can change your life.'
The final inspirational speaker of the day was Talan Skeels-Piggins, Winter Olympics Paralympian and World Champion 600cc Motorcycle Racer, who shared his life-changing story with the students. A former PE teacher at St Laurence School, Talan was paralysed from the chest down following a motorcycle accident in 2003. After just eight days of being paralysed, Talan said he would learn to ski, get into the National team and represent Great Britain at the 2010 Winter Paralympics. Seven years later he became Britain’s top placed male skier in the Giant Slalom and Super G events at the 2010 Vancouver Paralympic Games. He also went on to become the first paraplegic to race a motorcycle in an able-bodied race and to hold both motorcycle and car race licences. His advice to our students was, ‘challenges can bring out our best qualities. Trust and believe in yourself. It’s what you do that defines you’. He finished his talk with one final question for the students, ‘Where will your adventure take you?’