What does it take to help a young person reach their potential? It’s what the people over at our London focused charity partner City Gateway work on doing day after day, through a mixture of apprenticeships and training, youth work and alternative provision.
Research shows that in areas where young people are most impacted by social and economic inequality and exclusion, 16% of 19 year olds have not achieved a level 2 qualification (GCSE A-C), something which is vital for employment.
Through its extensive programme of work, City Gateway aims to add long-term value to young people, women and the wider community. SThree is proud to be part of the work that City Gateway does, having been one of their corporate partners since 2013.
What do we do?
Every year, SThree employs around three apprentices from City Gateway on a year-long contract within IT, Marketing, HR, Finance, Placement Support, Recruitment, or CSR, giving them valuable work experience as they work towards their NVQ. Nineteen-year-old Olida Khanom lives in Stepney Green and joined us as a Corporate Social Responsibility Apprentice.
Like most would-be apprentices, Olida’s journey began with City Gateway’s pre-employment programme, which enables its young people to get work-ready. As a result of the pre-employment programme, City Gateway’s apprenticeship success rate is 12% above the national average.
Since joining SThree, Olida has helped to develop our global partnership with SOS Children’s Villages by running over 15 fundraising events that have generated more than £40,000 for the charity. More than that, she is part of a team that delivers workshops to schools and charities, imparting the very skills she learnt so recently herself:
“What I really love about it is that we go into schools and do things like mock interviews – the type of activities that I used to take part in when I was at school. It helps so much to practice skills like that - it takes time to get better at it, but I’m on the other side now and I know how helpful it is.”
What does she feel that the apprenticeship has done for her?
“I feel more employable,” she explains, “and more confident. I’m not the sort of person that can easily say ‘I’m quite good at this’, but what I can say is ‘I’ve done this before’.” Crucial to Olida’s success is the supportive environment she experienced at SThree:
“Some people might think you’re only an apprentice but I’m treated exactly the same as all the other employees. Everyone just wants to see you do well. I assumed senior people wouldn’t be bothered with the apprentices but we got taken out for lunch by the CEO. He’s a busy guy, he didn’t have to do that.”
In fact, Gary Elden, our CEO takes an active role on the apprenticeship programme, going so far as to “talent spot” apprentices. Gary offered work experience, which led to an apprenticeship, to one young person he had met through his charity work and supported him throughout, meeting with him several times to hear updates first-hand and offer practical support when this young person experienced homelessness.
Frank Hubbard was 17 when he joined the apprenticeship programme in 2014 as Placement Support Consultant. Using his natural networking skills he went on to create his own opportunities, landing a one-day-a-week role in one of the sales teams for six months:
“The fact that they allowed me to go to sales one day a week shows how you can explore other sides of the business if you want to,” says Frank. “I used to sit next to my manager and if anything happened I could talk about it straight away. We had more official reviews as well, but I always felt that I could bring things up if needed there and then.”
Frank has also volunteered for many CSR projects, including sharing his personal story to help inspire young people from City Gateway and other charities as well as making a pledge to run home every day for three months raising over £200 for charity.
“This job has opened up opportunities that I just wouldn’t have had otherwise,” says Frank. “If I had stayed in college I know 100% that I would have failed and then I would have been in trouble. This has widened my horizons, I’m more self-assured and confident in things that I do.”
Olida feels much the same:
“I really do feel like the apprenticeship sets you up for life, it’s like the foundations of a house. I had a part-time job before I applied for the apprenticeship, but I knew it wasn’t going to go anywhere. I’ve found a job with real career progression.”
Apprentice of the Year
Olida’s year-long apprenticeship was crowned with the news that she had won the Apprentice of the Year Award organised by City Gateway. “I’m very excited that I won this award and that my work was recognised,” she says. “I want to thank my manager, Marie, SThree and City Gateway for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. What a journey it has been; and there’s so much more for me to look forward to,” she says.
“The most successful parts of the apprenticeship are the bits that can be hard to measure – an increase in confidence, in self-belief, in value and in purpose,” says Qasim Kazmi, Head of Marketing and Communications at City Gateway. “Having these corporate partnerships is essential to our success. Organisations like SThree recognise that these young people have potential. It makes them realise that success has got nothing to with your demographic, it’s a willingness to succeed and a desire to achieve.”
SThree supports each young person through their apprenticeship and helps them take their next steps as they complete the year, as Marie Broad, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, explains:“In running the apprenticeship programme we are honest with young people who join us that we won’t have the capacity to create new jobs for everyone. Rather we are committed to providing that first tangible year of experience.
“We support all our apprentices with follow-on opportunities including employment at SThree. One young person decided on completion of his apprenticeship in Finance that he would be the first from his family to study Finance at University – we are proud to have helped him embark on that journey. We want to create a fairer society. It’s the responsibility of companies to play their part, and there is so much that companies get from apprenticeships in terms of talent and fresh perspectives.”
Find out how seriously SThree take their commitment to transforming the career prospects of young people from diverse backgrounds by watching the following video.