Helping young people prepare for their future career pathways is the aim behind this week’s National Careers Weeki. This is our focus at Career Accelerator as our schools outreach programmes connect businesses with diverse young people from often disadvantaged backgrounds.
This is important as many workplaces still lack diversity and are failing to be attractive places for underrepresented groups to work. Only last month the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) said a collective failure to address diversity means that the heating and hot water industry is missing out in crucial skills and putting its whole future at riskii.
According to research from Energy Systems Catapult, who is working with BESA to address skills shortages across the building services sector, just two per cent of the sector’s workforce are female and only five per cent are from an ethnic minority background. We want to change this by connecting companies across different sectors with young people, to benefit both.
Firms are starting to recognise the value of engaging in outreach programmes to address their skills shortages, build diverse talent pipelines and tackle growing inequalities in education and employment, as well as provide developmental opportunities for their employees.
Young people are benefiting by engaging with businesses to develop knowledge and skills that are valued in the workplace, as well as find out about new career pathways. At the same time, employees who take part in the programmes can strengthen their transferable skills through mentoring, guiding or training young people, as well as increasing motivation and engagement.
We work with some of the UK’s leading companies including Cisco, Centrica, Pearson, Just Eat, Vodafone and GoCardless on mentoring programmes for students from diverse backgrounds. These include the new Neurodiversity and Disability Programme and LGBT+ business mentoring to prepare young people for successful careers.
We support companies to become attractive places for underrepresented groups to work and ultimately, help nurture tomorrow’s diverse talent.
Building connections with Cisco and Centrica
For the past three years Cisco has been helping young people from low income and diverse backgrounds prepare for careers in the digital sector. They run a schools’ programme, as well as a LGBT+ programme and Neurodiversity and Disability programme.
Speaking about his experience mentoring a young person called Kade, Alvaro Berruga from Cisco said that it was great making an impact in someone’s career by helping them in areas that they are not familiar with yet. Alvaro was able to help Kade improve his software engineering skills, giving him suggestions on how to deal with his manager to achieve his goals and setting a roadmap of things he could work on.
He says mentoring has improved his communication skills and also to better understand the needs of people who are just starting out in software development. This is very useful when managing a team, or even when helping an intern or newcomer in the company.
Centrica has also taken part in the programme for the past three years, firstly with their race network, and more recently they have started neurodiversity and disability mentoring.
One of the first things they did was offer work experience to students from diverse backgrounds. Students in their final year of GCSE’s or studying for ‘A’ levels were based in the commercial team, gaining exposure to different parts of the business to help prepare them for their future careers.
More recently Centrica has taken part in the Neurodiversity and Disability Programme to serve students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), who continue to be unrepresented in career opportunities.
After five employees went through the mentoring training they mentored 16 young people from The Tower Project, an organisation supporting the disabled community in London who were matched up based on similar interest and backgrounds. The mentors found it a rewarding experience that was useful for their professional development.
A Centrica employee said they really enjoyed the volunteering opportunity, and it was nice to be able to make time for such a valuable piece of work, that wasn’t about personal investment or gain, it was purely about giving back to a fantastic group of people.
Preparing and empowering young people from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in professional sectors while supporting businesses to provide training, volunteering, and marketing opportunities is making a significant difference to diversity and inclusion.
Young people are given the chance to shine and pursue career paths they may not have thought were open to them, and firms gain fresh perspectives and widen their talent pool. For companies to survive into the future creating diverse workforces is key.