At Yes Futures, we believe that every young person deserves to have the right support to help them create their own positive future. But some students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, may need additional support to recognise their potential and develop the skills needed for the world of work.
We recently attended a webinar by IntoUniversity, titled What companies can do now: supporting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into the world of work.
IntoUniversity shares our aim of empowering young people, and so it was very helpful to hear their ideas on how we and our corporate partners can best support young people to reach their full potential.
Below, we’ve shared our key takeaways from the webinar and our ideas on what companies can do to empower disadvantaged young people.
Why is it important that companies support disadvantaged young people into the workplace?
Even before the pandemic, disadvantaged young people were less likely to enter the highest-paid professions.
Young people from more privileged backgrounds were 60% more likely to be employed in certain industries, such as banking or the legal sector (Sutton Trust, 2019).
People employed in those industries were 5 times more likely to have attended a private school (Sutton Trust, 2019).
Those from disadvantaged backgrounds who do succeed in reaching the highest-paid jobs earn 16% less on average than their more privileged colleagues (Friedman and Laurison, 2019).
While the full impact of the pandemic on young people is still unknown, it is clear that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have been disproportionately affected. Just 5% of state school teachers reported that all of their class has adequate internet access, while a third of teachers in the most deprived schools reported that more than 1 in 5 pupils lacked devices (Sutton Trust, 2021). This lack of internet access meant that many students could not participate in online learning for much of the school year, significantly impacting the attainment gap - and young people’s career prospects.
Given the impact of the pandemic on young people’s prospects, encouraging disadvantaged students to think about their futures and develop key life skills is more important than ever.
What can companies do to support young people?
1) Run a mentoring scheme
A key takeaway from the webinar was the importance of firms reaching out to young people and offering them the opportunity to experience the workplace for a day or to have a mentor at the firm. We heard from Lujain, a recent graduate of the University of Manchester, who is currently working at the Financial Conduct Authority, She explained how her background meant she did not have anyone to ask about applying to jobs in her chosen industry and how she felt like she was constantly trying to keep up with her peers who had parents and friends they could ask about applying to jobs. She had a mentor who helped her massively. In her view, the most useful thing a company can do is to set up a mentoring scheme to give young people an insight into industries they may not otherwise have access to.
2) Host work experience placements - even virtually!
The Sutton Trust found that 61% of employers cancelled work experience placements during the summer of 2020 due to the pandemic, meaning that many young people missed out on valuable work experience. But by running our World of Work days virtually last term, we proved that virtual work experience placements can still be valuable for young people. All of our partners adapted to offer the World of Work day virtually to our students last year and this was a great success!
3) Reach out to a range of students
One interesting observation made was that when offering work experience or mentoring programmes, organisations should not only focus on inner city London schools but on other areas such as coastal communities. Two of our partner secondary schools, Mountbatten School and Ratton School, are located on the South Coast and so it was exciting to hear that focusing on a variety of areas is the right thing to do.
4) Get involved through another organisation
When offering a work experience programme, it can be hard to know how to get started, or which schools to reach out to. But many charities and organisations have established work experience schemes in place, saving your organisation time and resources!
For example, our World or Work partners host our Finding Futures and Rising Futures students for a day, allowing them to meet professionals and learn about different paths into the workplace. By doing so, students boost their aspirations and develop key employability skills.
The pandemic has been very tough on all young people, but particularly on those from disadvantaged backgrounds. But by running mentoring and work experience opportunities, companies can provide young people with the support they need to feel empowered about their futures.
Could you help give our students a first-hand taste of what the world of work is really like? If you are an organisation who would be interested in helping our students by hosting a World of Work visit, you can find out more about becoming one of our corporate partners here.
If you’d like to explore other ways you can support our students, please contact Sophie, our Director of Impact, at firstname.lastname@example.org.