Paul Bird, group chief financial officer at Ampa, who is attending Anthropy 23, discusses how the business community can look to empower disadvantaged young people
In our pursuit of talent and excellence, as a country, we often focus too much on traditional qualifications as the sole entry point into the workforce.
However, this approach overlooks a vast pool of potentially talented young people who may lack formal credentials but possess invaluable qualities such as capability, desire and enthusiasm.
It’s time to shift our perspective and take action to support disadvantaged young people and provide access to opportunities that they otherwise would not have been able to get.
Access to opportunities for all
A significant portion of the UK population faces barriers to accessing the facilities, guidance or support needed to obtain traditional qualifications, or to navigate the path to putting those qualifications into action.
These obstacles often result in exclusion from the workforce or limited opportunities from an early age.
Even for those who have earned the prerequisite badges, the relevant opportunities are not always available. We need to seek ways to break down these barriers and level the playing field for all young people.
Developing resilience and aspiration
For many, access to real-life work experiences can be elusive.
Every young person should have access to education and support networks that prepare them for success in the real world.
Whether they are homeless, sofa surfing, facing oppression at home, or have dropped out of the standard academic framework – these young individuals need opportunities to build confidence, self-assurance and self-awareness.
They need exposure to teamwork and the interactions necessary for success in permanent employment. We need to develop these essential skills within young people and help them aspire to reach beyond their social and economic circumstances.
More than just internships
Offering internships or trainee schemes is a start, but it’s not enough. We must provide real-world opportunities and real-life apprenticeships that offer comprehensive support.
This includes coaching, mentoring, practical assistance, and education to fill in the basic building blocks that were missed within the standard educational timeline.
These real-life apprenticeships should cover not only practical on-the-job training but also interview preparation, conflict resolution and practical life skills.
By addressing these critical areas, we can empower young people to excel in their careers and lives.
Society and economic prosperity
This isn’t just evangelical rhetoric. Ultimately, investing in the potential of disadvantaged youth benefits not only individuals but also society and the economy as a whole.
By increasing the number of young people who have the opportunity to improve their long-term prosperity, we contribute to the overall economic well-being of our communities.
As a group, we have implemented multiple initiatives aiming to tackle these issues, including working with local communities, charities and schools to help prepare and place individuals in the workplace.
To guide our interns, work experience students and apprentices, we provide buddies to support their onboarding and ensure their experience is fulfilling. We also pay them upfront for any travel and expenses to ensure they are not out of pocket or expected to self-fund anything.
For our early careers students, we provide additional skill workshops to equip them with knowledge that will not only assist their studies but also their future career plans. We also anonymise social background information from CVs to help prevent unconscious bias.
Clear communication is vital. It can be daunting undertaking a new career path, so we support all our early talent by developing relationships with them ahead of their starting date and holding pre-joining events to ensure they know what to expect.
We also ensure we share our lived experiences. A number of our leaders are social mobility role models who speak openly about their career paths.
Ultimately, however, it is all about making sure any action is authentic. You need to truly mean it and live it. People see through it and will not engage if it is not genuine. While we recognise there is much more to do, even these small steps are hopefully starting to make a difference.
As members of the business community, we should be committed to creating pathways for these young talents, empowering them to break free from the limitations imposed by their circumstances.
Together, we can bridge the opportunity gap and build a brighter future for all. It’s not just a moral imperative; it’s an economic and societal one as well.