March 11, 2011 (Friday) - Skills Fest



Ursuline College (in Margate) was holding a careers fest today, and I was there to run a stall extolling the merits of a career pathological. Much as I (occasionally) moan about it, it’s not a bad old job, really. The idea was I would set up a microscope with some slides, some Petri dishes, some grouped bloods and a tapeworm in a jar (yuk!). The kids would then come round and talk to me about working in a path lab. The students would also have the chance to talk to a lady from the NatWest bank, a policeman, a magistrate, some soldiers, some builders, some civil servants from the European Commission, and people from half a dozen different colleges.
In retrospect I was treating the event as a bit of a jolly, a morning off work, and a bit of a skive. The twelve year olds (who came round first) had the same idea about the event, and weren’t really interested. But as the morning went on, the children coming round were older and older, and towards the end of the morning I had several kids who were quite interested in what I was showing, and several who asked about how one goes about becoming a biomedical scientist. On reflection I would love to have had such an opportunity when I was younger.

Mind you, there were several not-so-gifted children. At least twenty of them, on hearing that the slide under the microscope was showing cancerous cells, asked if they could catch cancer by eating the microscope. A particularly geeky-looking child accused me of bringing MRSA infection to his school. Another child asked me all sorts of questions about the navy, having mistaken my employer (NHS) for the prefix of the ship on which his cousin served (HMS Ark Royal).

But perhaps the sweetest child of the day was a small quiet girl who politely asked me if I could answer her question; but warned me her question wasn’t about blood. I said I’d have a go. The poor child was interested in emigrating to Australia, and wanted to know what job she should do. I suggested she contacted the Australian Embassy. In a very small voice she asked what the Australian Embassy was. The poor child had no idea what an embassy was - she hadn’t been told the first thing about emigration. I suggested she looked up “Australia House” on the internet: they would have all the answers to her questions. Her face lit up – no one (up till now) had been able to help her in the slightest. So I suppose my morning wasn’t entirely wasted.

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