Claire Young was made famous by her role as the highly driven runner up of series four of ‘The Apprentice’, starting out in roles at Colgate Palmolive, L’Oreal and Superdrug. Today Claire runs her own business, School Speakers and has co-founded Girls Out Loud, in addition to working in the media and advising the Government on projects helping young people onto the career ladder and more women into business. Claire was born in Johannesburg and brought up in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, where she lives with her four year old daughter, Eva.
“…When I was at school we were taught by our head that there were no barriers and we could do anything which we wanted to. Working in schools now twenty years on I feel as though we have gone back in time…”
Claire, please can you tell us why you decided to set up School Speakers when you finished on The Apprentice?
After appearing on The Apprentice I was inundated by schools asking me to go in and speak to their students. I quickly realised that schools often booked speakers, however, it was difficult – and time consuming – to find them. I quickly spotted a gap in the market to start a speaking agency supplying educational speakers to schools. Teachers can trust that the speakers listed with us have been vetted, are excellent and are within school budgets. We started with 54 speakers and we now have 320! We have worked with thousands of schools across the UK and now internationally too.
What are the best bits about working with schools and young people?
On a personal level it is very rewarding to see the change your work can have on young people’s lives. If you can you engage, and motivate, students it is life transforming. Give them the aspiration to work and they will go for it! Self-belief and confidence are so important too.
Ironically, now we’re going to ask you about apprenticeships..! What is your perception of the changes to the way apprenticeships have evolved in recent years?
Apprenticeships were always treated as the poorer cousin to going to university! There was the old fashioned approach that smart people went to uni and the ‘others’ did an apprenticeship. I think over the last couple of years this has completely evolved and u-turned. Doing an apprenticeship now is aspirational and seen as a positive career move.
When do they work best?
When there is full commitment from both parties, the apprentice and business which offering the role. Also support from family and friends is really important.
Do you perceive differences in the choices made by girls from those made by boys, and if so, what are these?
Yes! When I was at school we were taught by our head that there were no barriers and we could do anything which we wanted to. Working in schools now twenty years on I feel as though we have gone back in time… People refer to jobs which girls do (child care, nursing, interior design) and boys (building, engineering, science). It is frustrating!
What is your advice for girls looking to maximise their options for the future?
Seek out good careers advice and find out all your options. I’d ask them to think about who and what inspires them – it may spark a career interest. They need to have confidence in themselves and belief in their skills. I’d encourage them to be proud, to be ambitious and to have a go! Be willing to have a go at new things and push yourself out of your comfort zone. It will surprise you what you can achieve!
What is coming up next for you and School Speakers?
I would love for School Speakers to be known, and used, by every secondary school in the country. I feel that all young people should have access to role models and people who will really inspire them to succeed. We are working with a number of partners on collaborative projects and I will be working across Europe in summer with 16 to 18 year olds on leadership, careers and employability skills.