On Wednesday 26 June, over a hundred Year 10 students and BSB staff members boarded buses for the school’s second annual trip to the corporate headquarters of Solvay, an advanced materials and specialty chemicals company based north of Brussels in Neder-Over-Heembeek.
The trip is part of a much larger BSB initiative to develop an Employer Engagement programme aimed at bridging the gap between students’ education and their future professional endeavours. Pioneered by the school’s Principal, Melanie Warnes, Employer Engagement programming gives both Secondary and Upper Primary students direct access to working professionals through in-school and on-site experiences, enabling them to make well-informed decisions about potential career paths. Students are encouraged to consider how they might apply their lessons to life beyond campus, to identify their personal strengths and interests, and to build professional skill sets that not only position them to succeed in today’s competitive job market, but that are also universally relevant and fitting of BSB students’ global destinations.
The trip to Solvay speaks to the heart of BSB’s Employer Engagement goals. Upon arrival, students were greeted by Solvay representatives and received a presentation on the company’s history, current work, vision and ethos. They were then given a taste of employee life at Solvay, touring the expansive campus in smaller groups led by a number of Solvay staff members, all of whom had generously volunteered to spend the morning sharing their work with us. Afterward, the staff members, whose offices ranged from Human Resources, Marketing and Finance to Sustainable Development and Research & Innovation, sat with students to explain their personal work, backgrounds, and office cultures in further detail, openly fielding student questions. Now equipped with a better understanding of the company, newly-formed student teams were tasked with a challenge: to apply what they had learnt about the various departments’ functions toward solving a fictional ‘emergency’ scenario, and to present their solution to their peers, teachers, BSB judges, and Solvay staff. The two teams that scored highest in presentation clarity and depth would then face off head-to-head, the victors winning a coveted trophy designed in Solvay’s company colours: silver and blue.
Post-trip student feedback suggests that, with or without a trophy, students felt they had gained something of value from visiting Solvay and are eager to participate in similar experiences in the future, as the time to make decisions concerning their academic and professional paths grows ever nearer. They were particularly struck by the variety of career options available within one company and, through their presentations, demonstrated a newfound understanding of how these offices interact to form a greater whole. Although many students noted that they had been nervous to present in front of a large crowd, they were excited by the opportunity to practice their public speaking skills and enjoyed working in teams, with the inspiration of a little healthy competition. They were also notably impressed by Solvay’s focus on creating a supportive working environment for its employees and considered, some for the first time, the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
In addition to site trips such as this, BSB Employer Engagement organises Expert Panels surrounding contemporary issues in professional development. It also offers a series of lunchtime Career Roundtables each term, inviting professionals from a variety of sectors to campus to share their career stories with students.
To share ideas or request information regarding our growing Employer Engagement programming, please contact Amanda Vandecasteele, Employer Engagement and Alumni Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.