Starting the Patrick Morgan Foundation in the summer of last year, we were well-intentioned and ready to give back to the community, noticing persistent problems in the industry and feeling grave responsibility to find a solution. We noticed a lack of diversity at the top (C-suite level) especially, and how quickly this inequality disseminates easily to the mid-layers of the business. The problem is apparent in the statistics: young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are twice as likely to not be in education, employment or training (NEET) than their better-off peers. Even when they have equivalent qualifications, they are still 50% more likely to be NEET in adulthood. While change to alleviate these numbers is at the forefront of almost all boards’ agendas, it is extremely difficult to achieve. We knew, then, the issue must be addressed very early – at education level. We knew we would have to intervene, at the right time, in the lives of students from disadvantaged backgrounds who may not have even considered entering particular industries; students who are extremely receptive to the advice and support we’re offering. And receptive, they have been.
In gathering feedback from students and teachers alike, we’ve learned a plethora of useful information on how to increase students’ confidence in the application process, their ability to succeed, and exactly why self-assurance is the key trait to encourage young people at this stage in their lives.
To start with, concrete advice is the most helpful – that is, interactive workshops which delve into the basics of CV writing skills and interview technique and etiquette. There’s a multitude of ways a job application process can go, from simply submitting a CV and being called in for an interview to writing a cover letter and carrying out a video interview. Students had plenty of questions about all of those, but the most useful section of the workshops was still the overview of the fundamentals. This is information they can carry forward regardless of the career path they choose to follow, and it’s content many schools don’t have the resources to focus on due to their tightly scheduled curriculum. So, streamlining to present it in a clear manner was extremely beneficial to the young people we’ve worked with.
Most importantly, though, we’ve discovered that our comprehensive workshops and talks improve the students’ self-confidence. To assess this, we had students fill out surveys before and after our sessions in the last two events we’ve done and processed the data. We found students’ confidence in CV writing growing significantly, together with confidence in their understanding of a typical application process. This information is vital to the growth of the foundation, as it constantly helps us improve and reflect on our work; for instance, establishing the need for a new ‘careers workshop,’ which we are now working on creating. The surveys have given us insight into the careers young people aspire to – law, accountancy, music, medicine, social work, teaching, and others, with 32% of our participants wanting to go into the finance and legal sectors. More so, we have learnt that students lack the awareness of their own possibilities, which has often been limited by their background – too often, young people are not educated in career paths outside of the traditional options they hear about growing up.
This further proves to us that it is not aspiration or big dreams that students lack, but rather the resources and preparation, which makes the services we provide all the more necessary. A more profound understanding of how to achieve their goals is essential to their success, which brings us back to the confidence increase and why it’s important.
A great deal of resilience and determination makes the process of entering one’s desired career a lot easier, and the only way of building character and resilience is through self-belief. This comes once we are informed of the steps we should be taking, so much so that we can choose whether to follow them or create our own path. Regardless, when we’re aware of what’s to come, confidence gives us freedom of choice; the freedom to write the CV, submit it, write the cover letter, show up to the interview with the right attitude, carried forward by the conviction that it will work out; and that’s how we want young people to feel by the end of their school years.
Thus, the data we’ve collected reinforce the hypothesis we started from: confidence and information are important in equal measure. Moreover, the students who need it most are from disadvantaged backgrounds, whose schools don’t have the resources to cover this part of their development to its fullest extent. More self-assured young people who have the courage and resilience to pursue the dream careers they aspire to will be an asset to the UK workforce and to themselves. As a result, we will continue gathering statistics from our surveys as our workshops evolve, allowing us to constantly adapt to each school’s needs and help to guide the future generations.