Local students learn what it takes to be a professional journalist at annual NCTJ careers talk

A group of sixth form students got a taste of what it’s like to work in journalism at an annual careers event on 28 January for local schools organised by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).

Students from Newport Free Grammar School and Saffron Walden County High School were welcomed to the New Granary in Station Road, Newport, by NCTJ chief executive Joanne Butcher. In her introduction she said: “The NCTJ has a UK and industry-wide remit but we are keen to support schools in our local community. The seminar is designed to help students decide if journalism is the career for them and explain the different options for training, qualifications and media sectors.”

Those attending were given information on the different career choices available in the media industry and shown how to access careers resources on the NCTJ website. They also had their journalism skills tested with a current affairs quiz and a headline writing competition.

John Cary, NCTJ head of accreditation, outlined the different routes into journalism, the structure and content of NCTJ qualifications and how to get work experience. John, who spent more than 30 years working as a journalist before joining the NCTJ in 2013, advised students to show a genuine interest in the industry to succeed. He said: "Read, listen, watch. If you care about journalism you need to find out how journalism is practised.”

Sam Tonkin, senior reporter at the Saffron Walden Reporter, explained what it was like to be a working journalist on a regional newspaper. He completed the NCTJ distance learning course while working full-time, and completed work experience at The Guardian, Sky Sports News and The Sunday Times.

Sam began as a trainee reporter with the Saffron Walden Reporter and has since successfully completed the NCTJ National Qualification in Journalism, the senior professional qualification for journalists. Sam said: “The industry is challenging to get into so the things that will make you stand out are having your NCTJ qualification and doing some work experience.”

Saffron Ward, a student at Saffron Walden County High School, said of the event: “The seminar was extremely useful in aiding my decision to work towards becoming a journalist. Before today I was unsure about courses and the sectors but I am leaving today with the knowledge to move forward.”