Preparing Students for the Workplace

Several national media outlets ran articles at the weekend about Dr Margaret Mountford’s advice to girls here at Benenden, but which is of course relevant to all young people, that prominent tattoos might affect their chances of securing a job.

The ex-Apprentice adviser’s comments inevitably sparked a debate about whether or not tattoos are socially acceptable. Yet to get sucked into this issue would be to miss the point. Whether you love or loathe tattoos (and Dr Mountford made clear that she was firmly in the latter category), the point she was making was that young people should be aware that body art can be divisive. If a City bank has two candidates to choose between for an internship and one has a tattoo on their face, which would the bank rather represented it at meetings with potential customers?

Dr Mountford’s point was to get students thinking, to put them in the mindset of a young professional entering the jobs market.

This is precisely why we have launched our new Professional Skills Programme: not to rail against tattoos specifically but to help prepare our Sixth Form students for the real workplace. We are teaching them skills such as teamworking, having the confidence to turn an idea into a business proposition, giving a business pitch, developing business plans and reading complex financial information.

As part of this education, it is important to offer guidance to young people on practical details such as how to present themselves in a professional manner: to make them think about how other people – including potential future employers – might perceive them.

Headmistress Samantha PriceThis is why we were so delighted that Dr Mountford agreed to come and speak to our girls, because I can’t think of anyone better to offer such guidance than somebody of her experience and credibility. When she spoke, the girls listened intently and her advice – on all sorts of business topics, not just body art – will stay with them. You could say it will be permanent, just like a tattoo.

Samantha Price
Headmistress, Benenden School