Southend Connexions Careers Fair 2011

On Wednesday 2nd February I spent a very enjoyable and productive day at SYC – the Southend Connexions Youth Centre in Shoeburyness – with over 1,700 secondary school students.

I was there to support the Southend Connexions Careers Fair 2011 and to promote careers in civil engineering and construction.

Web Banner courtesy Southend Connexions

This is a fairly common activity for me and I was there on this occasion in my capacity as a Civil Engineering Ambassador and as Chairman of the Essex Branch of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).  I was also representing my employer – Carillion plc.  You can find out more details about me on my LinkedIn Profile page.

The fair followed a similar and very successful event in 2010 which was held in a local leisure centre.  This year the event was held at Connexions brand new Youth Centre called SYC in Shoeburyness and was much better for it.  SYC was openend in July 2010 and is an excellent facility with a restaurant, and many rooms for various purposes.  The careers fair made use of all these facilities plus the large sports hall where the exhibitor stands were located.

Shoeburyness Youth Centre – SYC

The youth centre was built by Mansell Limited (a division of Balfour Beatty) and it was officially opened in July 2010.  Mansell were one of the exhibitors at the fair.

There were 60 exhibitors represented at the fair including local companies, education providers, universities and the armed forces.  The ICE stand was on plot 61 which was near the entrance and exit and snuggled between the ladies on the Jobcentre Plus desk and some chaps on the YMCA desk and opposite the Nail Bar girls.  I was there early and set up ready by 9am.

Space was rather limited but I did at least have a wall to stick things to and the desk was big enough for my literature and few other othings (on which more later!)

Some of our Civil Engineering careers literature

The fair was officially opened by our lady Mayoress Ann Holland at 9.30am.  Upon opening a flood of students and teachers entered – mainly from the school next door Shoeburyness High School.  The morning was extremely busy with bus loads of students and teachers from many schools in the area including Southend High for Girls and Boys, Cecil Jones, Sir Thomas More, King John, King Edmund, Chase High and one from Canvey whose name I don’t recall.  All in all – lots of students – and reportedly over 1,700.

I was kept pretty busy throughout the morning and slightly less so in the afternoon.  I was assisted for an hour or so at lunchtime by Jason Havey – a Carillion Engineer who is part of the management team delivering the Victoria Gateway project in central Southend.  Carillion are also delivering the City Beach project and both schemes fall under the Better Southend banner.

Carillion Engineer Jason Harvey manning the desk

In the afternoon I was less busy than the morning so a proceeded with an activity I had pre-planned to generate a little more interest in my stand.  I had brought paper, tape and paper fasteners and I set about constructing a simple truss bridge.  my stated aim was to make a bridge long enough to span the corridor to the nail bar girls and then to load test it.  It proved to be great fun and generated lots of interest from both students and other exhibitors.

A section of bridge under construction

By 4pm I had finished my bridge and, as the number of students had dwindled to a very few, we set the bridge across the gap and loaded tested it by piling careers literature on it.  We got to about 2 inches hieght of A4 booklets  before it collapsed which was okay – but it should have taken more.  It actually failed when one of the paper fastners pulled out – possibly due to workmanship issues(!).  The Connexions photographer was on hand a took a number of photos of the finished bridge before it collapsed.  A selection of photos will be included here when I get copies.  A photo of the bridge taken after the event is also included below.

The bridge to the Nail Bar
Load testing the bridge

Over the course of the day I reckon I spoke to at least 25 students from a mix of schools and both boys and girls who had a genuine interest in a career in the industry.  In addition I reckon on a least that number again who were interested enough to ask what civil engineering was about.  That gave me about 3% of attendees stopping at my stall.  I was very pleased with that.  Most of the students who were interested were considering universities but some were considering diploma’s and apprenticeships.  I was able to advise on all routes into the industry.

In addition, I spoke to at least 6-8 teachers and other adults who were interested to learn more about the industry and who were keen to investigate ways in which the ICE and their school could collaborate to educate students in all things built environment and to assist with National Curriculum teaching. All the teachers took business cards away with them with the intention of getting in touch again.  This was equally pleasing.

Dear Mr Kenyon, It was nice speaking to you during the Careers fair yesterday.It would great if we could work in collaboration in the future with our engineering/ STEM students.I will look into ways of how this could be possible and will get in touch with you.Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any suggestions.

Lastly I enjoyed one or two brief trips around the fair myself to look at and talk to exhibitors on other stands.  Of particular note were stands by Surrey University (where I did my degree), Mansell (who built the SYC building), KIER Eastern (a civil engineering and building company), Anglia Ruskin University, Essex University, and the Jobcentre Plus ladies on my left who kept me entertained throughout the day.

The lads on the KIER stand (nice display guys!)

All in all it was a really enjoyable, rewarding and productive day.  I hope that Connexions continue to provide services to the youth of Southend for a long time to come and that funding is not taken away from this valuable service.

There follows a selection of other photographs from the day.  Any other photos I receive will be included here in due course so do re-visit again.  If you have any comments about the event or this blog, or if you would like to talk to me about anything to do with civil engineering then leave a comment here or email me at


SYC Building
The boys from KIER Eastern
Me talking to an interested student
Other exhibitors
Other exhibitors
The Army
Other exhibitors
Me discussing helping a school with a STEM teacher
The repaired bridge in my office today

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