“WHAT made you want to work in PR?”

“How long do you work for each day?”

“How do you make work fun?”

Last week’s ‘Blue Monday’ was anything but at Victoria Primary School in Keighley where three separate year groups gathered in the school hall to listen to a talk from me about my career.

It made me realise that we should take a leaf out of a child’s excitable book rather than subscribing to someone’s idea of a “blue” day. Because nothing could have felt further from reality as I joined children from five to 11 and talked about the world of PR.

I worried for the full two weeks beforehand about speaking in front of schoolchildren! What would I say? It’s often hard enough articulating what PR is to adults but to try and make it relatable to children as young as five...I really, really didn’t know where to start.

But after a chat with the school and a good few evenings (and a weekend) of planning, sourcing images from our files and looking at relatable figures in the news, I collated giant images of Donald Trump, the Queen, pies, chemists, manufacturers and even images representing my own battle with eczema. And on the morning of Monday, January 17, I stood in front of my youngest and most critical audience ever - and spoke about the power of reputation and of story telling.

Three back-to-back half hour sessions later and I was left feeling elated at how engaged, how interested and how inquisitive the children were.

And why shouldn’t they be? The world of work can be really exciting. It should be inspiring. And it should be shared with young minds who are eager to learn.

The emotions of sharing the profession I love with a room full of schoolchildren took me by surprise. It was a delight to see their arms trying to touch the ceiling because they had so many questions to ask. And I was left covered in goosebumps at the gasps of surprise when I mentioned that I’d met Prince William and Kate in Bradford when I was representing the business community as the president of Bradford Chamber of Commerce.

There were other important messages to get across too. I wasn’t university educated. I certainly wasn’t a high flyer at school. But I was always a good reader and a good writer. Helping children to understand that their skills, their passions and their talents really can become their careers is an important message to get across. Work should be about doing something that you love and being able to show how something I love led to a career I loved felt like an empowering message to get across.

Covid took a lot away from today’s primary and secondary pupils. Which makes it more important than ever that we engage with children so that they want to become the experts of the future.

Bradford Manufacturing Weeks and Leeds Manufacturing Festival are just two local initiatives which bring business and commerce into the awareness of children. The Yorkshire Champions group, founded by magistrate Gill Arnold, who has seen hundreds of children and young adults in challenging situations, is a team of diverse individuals from non-privileged backgrounds who visit young people in schools to talk about their careers, their hurdles and their stories.

Founded on the principles of ensuring children have something to carry forward in their “educational bank account”, the aim of those who have signed up to the Yorkshire Champions group is to support schools and teachers by talking with students and pupils about their own journeys to inspire, encourage and motivate. Through these exchanges, the hope is to change the way students feel about education and to change attitudes which will ultimately, pay dividends at a later date.

Gill Arnold says: “Yorkshire Champions help young people see the connection between the value, effort and hard work they put in today and the opportunities that will open on leaving school with a full ‘Educational Bank Account’.”

I joined the Yorkshire Champions last year but thanks to Covid my school visit last week was my first. It certainly won’t be my last, particularly after hearing the feedback from Victoria Primary School’s headteacher Jane Dark, who said: “Careers have a significant focus in our curriculum, we are working to raise the aspirations of our children and introduce them to the pathways they can take. Having a business representative like Suzanne visit the school really opened the children’s eyes to the world of work and helped them to understand how their education and their skills can be an exciting part of their future. Suzanne’s visit really inspired our children and the impact has lasted long after the talk finished, here in the classroom and through sharing their experience with their parents.”

Which reinforces that only when we take the time to speak, listen and engage with children, can we expect these wonderful, inquisitive, full-of-potential minds to be interested in and understand more about the work we do.

It starts with us... But the effects have the potential to last a lifetime.

* For details on the Yorkshire Champions group, contact Fatimah.hussain@bradford.gov.uk