Russell WBHO is sponsoring a new Stretford-based charity which aims to inspire the city’s young people.
State Talking has been launched with a mission of connecting Greater Manchester state school pupils to relatable role models.
Local heroes, from Bury-born chef Mary Ellen McTague to Wilf Walsh, CEO of Carpetright who grew up in Salford, are amongst 90 speakers with a local connection who have signed up to deliver exclusive talks.
Not all speakers are high profile and equal weight is given to people in key worker roles. A local nurse and a police officer both talk openly about how they made it in their chosen fields.
The charity was set up by Stretford-based Frances Kennedy, whose children both attend Greater Manchester state schools. Although her initial intention was for sessions to take place face-to-face in school halls across the county, the education development director was quick to adapt State Talking’s offer so it could continue during the pandemic.
Talks, which are each between five and 10 minutes long, are available for schools and students to access on the State Talking YouTube channel. Schools can contact the charity if they would like to follow up with a Zoom Q&A.
State Talking is sponsored by Russell WBHO, one of the north west’s largest and most high profile construction companies. Employees from the business will also be among those to give their time and expertise to the initiative.
Frances said: “Students at state schools don’t get the same extra-curricular benefits as privately educated kids, who can be privy to an ever-spinning carousel of visits from business, science, arts, media and sports stars.
“I set up State Talking in order to facilitate meaningful contact between relatable, state-educated professionals, representing every sector, and school students across Greater Manchester.
“Other school speaker agencies exist, but their talking heads are often privately-educated and London-based. As Tony Wilson said, we do things differently here.
“We want to showcase the amazing opportunities there are right here in Manchester. Pupils from deprived areas are unlikely to leave the city and I want to show them that this doesn’t need to limit their horizons. There are so many options in so many sectors on their doorstep.
“We did manage to programme a number of talks into schools before lockdown and hope one day to get back to delivering these sessions face-to-face. But in the meantime, we will continue to build upon our online content.”
Creative industries voices are represented by Trevor Sorbie art director Mai Ha, Kelly Crawford, the Media City-based deputy editor BBC Breakfast and Kelly Gilmour-Grassan from Making You Content.
Lucie Grant, vice president of communications technology company Dura-Line is one of the first STEM professionals to offer her time.
And Aimie and Kiera Lawlor-Skillen from Manchester mental health awareness project and brand Feel Good Club are amongst the latest locals to record a video.
Andrew Russell, joint managing director of Russell WBHO, said: “Children and young people need role models and State Talking is doing an amazing job of putting highly successful and yet totally relatable professionals in front of young audiences across Greater Manchester.
“I truly believe that these interactions can motivate, inspire, focus and ultimately change lives.
“Russell WBHO is one of the north west’s largest and most successful construction firms and employs over 240 people. Our CSR commitment includes supporting local education programmes and so State Talking is a great fit for us. We are very pleased to be able to play a small part in helping this important venture to flourish”.