STUDENTS have been forging links with local employers at Dorset’s first Futures Day.

The event at the Thomas Hardye School saw more than 400 pupils engage with 45 visitors from local businesses, including the Dorset Echo.

They carried out workshops and mock interviews as well as listening to talks including keynote speaker Giles Henschel from Olives et Al.

Headteacher Michael Foley said: “It’s important to have a day where you can step back from studying and think about the future. The students have listened to people from all different walks of life, all different backgrounds.

“They might have spoken to someone who has started their own business, gone into law, gone into journalism from challenging circumstances and it hopefully will have given them the boost to think: ‘I can do it too.’ We want to raise aspirations and raise the bar in terms of what students believe they can achieve.

“If this day helps to either change just one student’s mind, or implants an idea or gets the ball rolling, then it’s been a success.”

Visitors, including Echo chief reporter Samantha Harman, held two one-hour long sessions with students who are interested in their career field.

In the afternoon mock interviews were held to help give students pointers for future employment.

Former Thomas Hardye student Matt Caines, who now works on the arts and culture desk at the Guardian, came back to talk to current students.

He said: “I remember being here at that age and thinking: ‘What am I going to do?’ “I had very good advice from the school then, so I thought it was important to give something back and help current students who might be going through the same thing.”

Headteacher at Sunninghill Preparatory School Andrew Roberts-Wray was heavily involved in organising the event.

He said the aim was to build a link between the education and business sector so youngsters are encouraged to stay in the local area and get a greater understanding of what will be required of them when they enter the work place.

The event was the first of its kind and further events may be held elsewhere in Dorset and builds Beacon Network and Dorchester Area Schools Partnership’s work.