Paul Goldthorpe is an assistant store leader in Portsmouth. He’s written a special guest post for The Blue about his Think Big School experience…

This summer I was given the opportunity to get involved in something that I have always had a keen interest in. I was asked to join Think Big on one of their projects, Think Big School.

I come from the store world of Telefónica, working as an Assistant Store Leader in the O2 Store in Portsmouth, and over the three years I’ve been with O2 I have learnt a lot about Think Big. The more I learnt the more I wanted to get involved. Working with and coaching young people have always been a passion of mine and Think Big School was a perfect chance to learn new skills and tweak those I already had. I’m always looking for ways to challenge myself and this was the perfect opportunity.

The majority of the Think Big Schools have been held at one of O2’s academy venues, I was lucky enough to working in the O2 Academy in Bournemouth. We were expecting 80 or so pupils from 2 local schools, to do a day session with us around technology and the digital world. As I set foot into the venue, a sudden rush of nerves ran through me. The expectation of an “over-enthusiastic” gang of “young people” bursting into the room at any point had just dawned on me.

The reality however was much different, sure there was excitement at the fact their normal class room table and chairs and white board had been transformed into bean bags, director’s chairs, laptops and plasma T.Vs but what sparked was an immediate interest, and a want to know more. Those butterflies of nerves were soon swapped with waves of excitement.

We firstly split the two schools into mixed groups of 5, the horrified faces of the young people leaving their best friends was a picture. In fact the part of the day that fascinated me the most, was the way these young people interacted as the day went on. A little bit like me to begin with, you could see the nerves on their faces as they were thrown out of their comfort zone. However as the day went on real friendships were made, and they were more than comfortable to debate and battle it out over a mind map.

On the day we were looking to boost these young people’s digital skills (and if I’m honest, in doing so I boosted mine). The task was to learn about HTML coding, discover a new app, debate pro’s and con’s and deliver the app in a “Dragon’s Den” style pitch. My role was to mentor 3 groups of 5 young people bursting with ideas. What surprised me was the knowledge these young adults already had about the digital world.

These young people really are the future. I mean when you look at it closely with in this generation we have the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, the next innovators to grab the future of the digital world. Overall the whole day was so rewarding, but the most rewarding part for me has to be the amount of ideas that I helped develop. I was a catalyst. Prompting their already great ideas and unlocking the potential of them. I learnt so much about having to adapt my coaching technique between the 15 young people, and I thrived on seeing them succeed. I shall never forget the “lightbulb” moments as the ideas flowed, the shared passion between myself, the other mentors and everyone else involved in the day.

It truly was my proudest day as a Telefónica employee, and I can promise you that if you come away from any Think Big event half as inspired as I am, you will be hooked. I certainly can’t wait to do it again!

Think Big School is O2’s work skills initiative for young people aged 14-18.Over the next three years, 50,000 young people across Europe will take part in Think Big School; 12,000 specifically within the U.K. The programme provides young people a new type of work experience based on practical business and digital skills, run by O2 employees on O2 sites. To find out more, and keep in touch, follow us on Twitter @O2UKThinkBig.

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