Our Victoria House HQ recently welcomed some guests with a difference, as our boardroom played host to the Year 9s of Stepney All Saints school – each bringing along an energy and enthusiasm the match of even the most passionate of acquisitions meetings.
The school was taking part in the National Literacy Trust (NLT)’s flagship Words for Work programme, designed to support young people from disadvantaged communities to gain the literacy and communications skills needed to fulfil their huge potential, and giving those on the course the chance to take those skills from the classroom and directly into the workplace.
Volunteers from across Bonnier Books UK took part in the project, offering their time and expertise to visit Stepney All Saints school in person for a busy morning of speed interviews with students and a series of lively discussions on how literacy skills can be translated to the workplace. For Eleanor Rose, marketing and publicity assistant, the volunteering sessions were “about opening our world up and showing that all these skills are so valuable to start learning and practicing now to take into the wider world. And it’s valuable for children to see the importance of books as well – and how many new books are coming out every year – so that they can start reading and getting excited to learn those skills from an early age.”
The class then visited the team at our Victoria House HQ a few weeks later for a tour of the office and Q&A session, followed by the main event and culmination of the programme: as each pupil took it in turn to deliver a presentation on their dream career path. The passion, skill, and research involved – not to mention the bravery of standing up and addressing a packed room of publishing professionals – was extraordinary and testament to their talent.
The National Literacy Trust’s research is stark: 70% of employers place literacy skills within their top three considerations when recruiting school leavers, and the Words for Work programme is one of the charity’s key tools designed to unlock these all-important speaking and listening skills. And with research showing that just under half (47%) of primary and secondary school age pupils within Stepney All Saints’ borough of Tower Hamlets currently aspire to a professional career, these sessions play a valuable role in demystifying the workplace; giving young children the confidence in their own abilities to boost and broaden their career aspirations.
As the publishing industry works towards ever-greater levels of inclusion and representation, initiatives like Words for Work play a valuable role in opening doors and peeling back the curtain. “It’s so important. You won’t know about publishing unless you can see it,” said volunteer and editor Rachael Roberts. “We really want to inspire young readers and publishing hopefuls of the future.”
With presentations that shone a light on every conceivable corner of the job market – from budding barristers and bounty hunters to neurosurgeons, football managers, and even – our editors were particularly pleased to see – an aspiring author, our volunteers were left in no doubt of the ambitions and vast potential of the next generation and convinced that they’d seen the first glimpse of some of the publishing superstars of the future. We hope they’ll be back round that boardroom table before long.