Schools are being encouraged to set up alumni schemes to link students with local role models in their area.
The programme, which will be available to all school in Wales, will be intensively trialled in 10 schools across the Valleys Taskforce area, with Queen Elizabeth High School in Carmarthen one of the schools taking part.
The idea of the scheme is to inspire comprehensive school students by linking them with former pupils who have gone to develop interesting, varied and successful careers; and to help them access advice and practical support.
Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport and chair of the Valleys Taskforce, Lee Waters said: “Children attending private schools often have a whole network of people outside of their school and immediate family who can help them to develop and progress their career ambitions.
“This programme is about giving comprehensive students across the South Wales Valleys that same level of support. Eventually we want to roll a version of this scheme out to all comprehensive schools.
“As a boy growing up in the Amman Valley, I and my fellow class mates were often told that we would need to leave our local areas in order to progress our career ambitions.
“That is not the message I want to give to pupils. If we are to develop vibrant and economically thriving communities we need our talented young people to understand the whole raft of options available to them and to consider building their future within these communities.
“I hope the alumni scheme will help our young people to understand that forging a successful career and future is not always about leaving your local community and heading to a city.”
The alumni role models will speak to pupils about their own career journeys, the barriers they have experienced and some of the lessons they have learned along the way. They will also help highlight some of the different careers and career pathways available.
They could also help the students with work experience opportunities or by putting them in touch with local networks and contacts who can help them to reach their career goals, particularly within the local community.
A toolkit has been developed by Future First to help schools create a new alumni programme. The toolkit will be available to all secondary schools across Wales so they can work to recruit appropriate and relevant role models for their pupils.
It will provide a step-by-step guide which contains real life examples as well as templates that schools can use to recruit former pupils.
There is also information on safeguarding and GDPR, and guidance on how to get the most out of an alumni scheme using virtual interactions at a time when face to face contact is limited. This toolkit will be enhanced by the intensive work that Careers Wales are doing with the 10 schools in the South Wales Valleys.
The participating schools are: Risca Comprehensive School, Abertillery Learning Community School, Blackwood Comprehensive School, Ysgol Garth Olwg, Cardinal Newman RC School, Tonyrefail Community School, Cyfarthfa High School, Pen y Dre High School, Maesteg Comprehensive School and Queen Elizabeth High.
Together, Careers Wales and the participating schools have already had expressions of interest from 207 alumni.
Once recruited, due to the ongoing COVID related restrictions, Careers Wales will work with the alumni to produce a vlog to introduce themselves and their career journey to staff and pupils of their former schools.
Nikki Lawrence, chief executive of Careers Wales, said: “The alumni scheme is a fantastic opportunity for former pupils to share their experiences and career journeys that current students can really relate to.
“As well as having sat in the same classrooms, and grown up within the same communities, the former pupils will have faced similar challenges to those that current pupils are now experiencing.
“We hope that the support from alumni will inspire and encourage students to think about the wider opportunities available and identify their own ambitions.”
Lorraine Langham, chief executive of Future First, said: “The Welsh Government has broken new ground by officially recognising the crucial importance of alumni networks in boosting the career prospects of young people. No other UK government has ever done this, but I sincerely hope they will now follow.
“We’ve been delighted to develop this toolkit for schools in Wales. With scientific evidence now emerging of how our brains respond to relatable role models this initiative promises to provide lasting benefit to young people across the country.”
A digital celebration of the project is being planned during National Careers Week in March, which will comprise a programme of content shared on social media and resources to help other schools create their own alumni community.