Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI) has revealed that its alumni network has helped raise over £2million to support new school projects.  Launched just five years ago, the RBAI Foundation is supporting a number of initiatives, including a £8million plan to develop new science, technology and swimming facilities.

RBAI was the first school in Northern Ireland to launch a professional development and alumni relations office in 2013.  The Foundation is now in touch with 5,000 past pupils who live and work across six continents.

In addition to providing financial support at a time when the education sector is facing a funding crisis, the Foundation also helps current pupils with careers talks, work placements and mentoring.  Last year two A level students spent a week rehearsing with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by past pupil Courtney Lewis.  This year there will be a ten-day work-shadowing opportunity with Steve Martin, CEO Sport & Entertainment, M&C Saatchi, the world’s biggest independent creative agency.

Last month, 12 pupils were given unprecedented access to alumni who are currently business leaders across a range of sectors in Northern Ireland.  Led by entrepreneur Colin Johnston, MD of Clear Group and in partnership with the Foundation, the pupils spent time with Danske Bank, Osborne King and Invest NI as part of the school’s ‘Commerce Week’.

Colin Johnston said:

“The RBAI Foundation is a great example of how a school’s alumni community can provide valuable lessons outside the classroom, and play a pivotal role in nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders.

“Every school has young people with the skills and aptitude to succeed in business.  We need to give them real insight into how companies work, inspiring them and fuelling their ambition.”

David Croft, Senior Business Manager at Danske Bank, said:

“RBAI has been something of a trend setter in harnessing the potential of alumni who can provide a natural bridge between schools and the world of employment.  Danske works with a wide range of schools to help give pupils an insight into how business works and we encourage employees to explore how they can support their former schools and colleges.”

RBAI Principal, Janet Williamson, added:

“We often tell our pupils that they stand on the shoulders of giants, and it’s tremendously inspiring for them to know that whichever career they choose, there are Instonians who have walked that path before them.

“Equally, our alumni gain great satisfaction from sharing their knowledge with young people, not to mention the fun it is to go down memory lane.”

RBAI’s new £1.75million Centre of Innovation opened in June thanks to funds raised by its alumni.  The Foundation also runs regular business events in Belfast and London, and has held reunions in Sydney, Dubai and Vancouver.