Let us take you back to 1991 and a tiny windowless careers office in an all-girls school in the Southwest of England. Two friends were eagerly awaiting a long print-out of possible careers selected by a computer, based on their personal school data.
Imagine the horror (and hysterics) when the first piece of paper dropped from the noisy printer with only one job - a tractor driver!
The other friend did not fair well either - the printer kicked into action again and spat out another job... a sculptor!
The computer was not to know that the first girl was too short to be a tractor driver and the other’s life sculptures were more Morph than Henry Moore! These anomalies were not a consideration. Whilst these careers were perfectly acceptable for other young people, they were entirely inappropriate for two girls who had neither the desire or attributes required to do the jobs justice.
Even though the two friends laughed at the bizarre and random answers provided by the computer, and the less-than-wise words of comfort from the Career's Adviser, it could have been a defining moment in their lives. Over 10-years of learning had culminated in this.
Thankfully the computer and the Career's Adviser were both wrong. The two friends both went on to enjoy successful careers in jobs that would have surprised many of the teachers involved in their education at school.
The first became a CEO of a successful charity and went on to win numerous awards before setting up her own consultancy business.
The second went to university and gained an honours degree before embarking on a 20-year career in the Global PR Industry, living and working between London and Paris.
Despite being the best of friends in school, the two girls lost contact for over 18 years, until they discovered each other on social media.
On one Christmas evening in 2009, the two friends agreed to meet and share stories at a local eatery just 500 metres from the school they had once attended together. Neither of them had changed and they both laughed at the memories of their less-than perfect school years.
They remained in contact for the next few years and watched as each other's life took a significant u-turn. The first friend began to reflect on her life and started to feel trapped by her consultancy, sad that her dreams of travelling and leaving a meaningful legacy behind appeared to have passed her by.
The second friend also realised that her busy executive job was not really the life she had envisaged. It was city-based, hectic and stressful - not exactly the ideal career for a quiet introvert with a love of nature. In an incredible twist, she decided to re-train as a life and career coach and moved to the foot of a remote mountain in Wales. Whilst training, she introduced her old school pal to a fellow life coach who inspired her to follow her travelling dreams, reminding her that it is never too late to change direction.
Consequently, the first friend wrapped-up her consultancy business and travelled the world with her family for two-years visiting over 20 countries. When she returned, it was her old school friend who helped her to re-visit her strengths, values and skills, guiding her closer to the kind of meaningful work she had always dreamed of.
Then an opportunity to meet again was presented and they jumped at the chance to connect in person. So, in 2018 the pair booked a place at a vision board workshop in Oxford and rented a small cobbled-together house in Abingdon for a few days.
They engaged in deep and reflective conversations late into the night, sharing their personal thoughts and insights into all manner of topics from politics to education. It was the topic of education that sparked an animated and passionate debate about their own experiences and that of people they know and love.
With such clarity of thought, they could see the fundamental error of career planning in the UK and why so many young people fail to thrive and achieve meaningful, fulfilled and happy lives DOING WHAT THEY LOVE.
In the early hours of a cold winter's night, the concept of the Porcupine Collective was born.
Their names are Martine and Alison and the Porcupine Collective is their vision and legacy.
STILL YOUNG AT HEART!