THE vast array of opportunities available to young people were showcased at a careers and higher education evening in Ripon supported by more than 100 exhibitors. Ripon Grammar School hosted the biennial event to give students a flavour of the choices they have on leaving school.

The event was aimed at sixth formers and students taking GCSEs, but pupils as young as 12 also went along to get a head-start on their future careers. Students from the neighboring Outwood Academy were also invited to attend.

Virtually every business sector was represented, along with universities and colleges from across the country, Royal Societies and the public sector.

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Common themes running through their advice for students was the importance of enthusiasm, initiative, work experience, demonstrating commitment, working in a team, being good at problem solving and preparation and research in the hunt for jobs and university places.

Duncan Morpeth, of Grant Thornton in Leeds, said: "We are looking for well rounded individuals with good people skills, good listening skills and an ability to cross reference information."

June Forsyth, of Bayford Foundation, added: "It's about being gutsy and showing you have a bit of spark. You don't have to have to selling skills - we can teach that - but you do need passion."

Insurance litigator David Walsh, who had travelled from London law firm Cameron McKenna, one of the biggest in the world, for the event, said: "We are looking for genuine enthusiasm in someone who has done their research on the firm and the area of law they are considering. I'd advise students to get as much work experience as they can and to keep a detailed record of what they've learned."

Sixth former Lucy Watkiss, who joined Ripon Grammar School to do her A levels, said: "I'm interested in a career in law but I've had a firm offer to read English literature at Durham so I was really pleased to hear that I can still do that and it not count against me.

"I'm really grateful that the school has put on this event and given us the opportunity to talk to people in different professions."

Eric Lister, finance director for Cummins Distribution in Russia, China and Europe, pointed out that while his company was known for its technical opportunities there were also many other roles in large organisations across a range of disciplines.

After talking to him, student James McDaniel, 17, said: "It's mind boggling, but very useful."

Third year student Ben Pimley, 13, said: "I don't know what I want to do yet and I wanted to come to get some ideas. I've been talking to KPMG and that seems like a good place to work."