Tom Baker from St Thomas More Catholic Academy in the West Midlands graduated the Career Ready programme (then Career Academies) in 2010. Here, Tom explains the impact that the programme and his internship at an accountancy firm had on his life and starting his own business.

During school and college I was never really convinced that University was the right next step for me, but there was so much pressure to apply. We would spend entire lessons writing personal statements regardless of whether we wanted to go or even knew what we wanted to study. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do after college when I managed to get a place on the Career Academies programme.

During my time on the Career Academies programme I enjoyed visiting various businesses and even had the chance to attend a networking event, but it was my internship that had the biggest impact. Having the chance to go to a 9-5 job, wearing a suit and working with professionals was a great experience and I loved it. I worked with various people in the business from VAT returns to preparing company’s accounts. I realised that this was the environment I wanted to work in.

Whilst completing my internship with the accountancy firm, as luck would have it, I bumped into my old football team manager who ran his own business and had his accounts prepared by the practice themselves. We caught up and I must have made an impression because he offered me a job at his Insurance Brokerage which I then took. I could not be more grateful for the opportunity he gave me.

Today I run my own business. After working for Insurance Brokerages for 9 years, I decided to take the plunge. I distinctly remember attending a large business conference whilst being on the Career Academies programme and being given the chance to meet with lots of local business owners. I remember taking cards, listening to stories, and being totally inspired. Experiences like that gave me a burning desire to be my own boss and establish my own business one day and I’m happy to be able to say that is what I do now.

I strongly believe that the Career Academies programme shaped my future. I was able to experience the world of work at a time when I wasn’t sure what was available to me. Being able to meet and network with business professionals gave me so much confidence and laid the groundwork for how I conduct myself today.

I’d love to get involved as a mentor with Career Ready in the future, to be able to give back and say thank you for the opportunities I was given, without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Discover how you can make a difference to the life of a young person like Tom.