Commerce Week @ RBAI


Ten RBAI students recently undertook an exclusive and bespoke commerce week visiting 13 high profile businesses, to experience the challenge, buzz, dynamism and energy of the workplace for themselves. The boys had to compete to win a place on the programme, demonstrating transferrable skills and a desire to work in business.

The school’s total commitment to providing outstanding career opportunities for students was highlighted by the addition of the ‘Week in the World of Commerce’ to the already extensive careers programme.

The unique programme was organised by Colin Johnston, MD of Clear Group, and a member of the Board of Governors at RBAI, who explained the thinking behind the programme; “This was an opportunity for ambitious students to meet business leaders, ask questions, and gain real insight into how their companies and sectors operate. The students came out of the week with a much clearer idea which career paths they wished to pursue.”

Alongside experiencing established sectors such as auto retailing at the Agnew Group and food processing at Moy Park, participants explored emerging areas including cyber security at Deloitte Belfast. The visit to Deloitte caught the imagination of Year 13 student Simon McMaster;

“I’ve always been interested in technology, but had no idea that Northern Ireland was the global leader in cyber security.  It was fascinating to hear Stephen Wray talk about how his career has progressed from University to his current role.”

Emphasis was put on participation throughout the week, and during an afternoon at Carson McDowell, the boys were split into two teams and pitted against each other to negotiate a resolution in a mock case. “The legal negotiation was the highlight of the week for me” explained student Luke Greenaway, “We all had to adopt roles and think creatively. It was very tense as nobody wanted to lose!”

For Colin, who took the week off to accompany the boys on all of the visits, it was a very rewarding experience;   “It was refreshing to experience this week through the eyes of a group of 17 year old students.  There is a big gap between the classroom and the workplace, and they will each be making career defining decisions very soon. Without doubt this process has deepened their understanding and given them confidence to pursue their career goals.”  

Throughout the week the students visited Bombardier Aerospace & Engineering Services, Sangers United Drug, Osborne King, Deloitte, East Belfast Partnership, Catalyst Inc, Danske Bank, Agnew Group, Hastings Hotels, Carson McDowell, Almac Group, Moy Park, Invest NI and Belfast City Council.

Mr O’Neill, Head of Careers, outlined the invaluable experiences the boys have now gained, “The week of work experiences enabled the boys to gain practical understanding of a wide range  of industries which should ensure they make informed career decisions in the years ahead.”

This week of commerce adds to the already comprehensive careers provision at the school. As well as the taught careers programme, the RBAI Careers Convention for Year 12 and 13 pupils and parents brings representatives of more than 80 professions, careers and universities in attendance in each year. The schools’ extensive alumni network is extremely supportive; weekly careers presentations are given by professionals from a range of careers, which help to secure valuable work placements for pupils.

The Year 13 students involved were extremely positive about Commerce Week and have praised the opportunity to see such a diverse range of industries and professions from the inside. They are very grateful to Colin Johnston for organising the events and taking time out of his own hectic career to accompany them throughout the week.   

To experience Commerce Week for yourself go to

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