Social mobility and closing the UK skills gap

Social mobility and closing the UK skills gap

By Chris Cooper, Founding Director of Role Models Yorkshire

 

students friendsThere is a collective effort required to help students from low-income backgrounds to enter professional careers and to close the UK skills gap.

Having gone to school in the infamous Bransholme Estate in Hull, I saw myself as a victim of life rather than someone who had been gifted life. University, apprenticeships and good jobs were out of reach for people like me. The main reason being that there were no positive role models. No one had ‘been there and done it’. This first-hand experience is at the heart of the solutions that Role Models Yorkshire provide.

I don’t want other young people from low socio-economic backgrounds like mine to have to go through the hard journey that I did, because of the ‘I can’t do it’ attitude. By putting successful people from a range of industries into schools, I believe we can give young people the confidence they need to achieve their full potential in a career of their choosing.

By putting successful people from a range of industries into schools, I believe we can give young people the confidence they need to achieve their full potential in a career of their choosing.

The Role Models team and I have always had a clear idea about what we wanted to do: to inspire, inform and support young people from low socio-economic backgrounds and never put finances before our mission to do so. Through our presentations and workshops we inspire young people from low socio-economic backgrounds to follow professional career goals. We then inform them on the different routes that they can take in order to qualify for these careers. We support the young people in choosing which career best fits their skill sets and ambitious, help develop the skills they need to follow these careers and support them in finding funding.

To make a long-term impact on the lives of young people, we try to think about our goals in relation to bigger organisations, in particular, universities concerned by the UK skills gap.

By partnering with the University of York, Role Models Yorkshire has been able to map a path forward which enables both parties to reflect on how we can improve social mobility. Following a discussion with Tom Coward at the University Careers Department, I realised the power of universities to connect businesses with organisations who share their vision. We made contacts with key figures in the social mobility industry. I gained a mentor in Joe Gardham, founder of Social Vision, who has helped me with many aspects of Role Models Yorkshire, from choosing our name to putting us in touch with our first role models.

Our latest role model Luqman Imam, a property developer from Hull has a really amazing story. At one point he was denied residency and now his company have invested over £1 million into property development.

I take real pride in the investment of skills and time by our business partners and my own team. We all really care about giving back to the communities that we are from and we couldn’t do this without the University.

In an ideal partnership between universities and businesses, the two parties can draw on each other’s strengths.

In an ideal partnership between universities and businesses, the two parties can draw on each other’s strengths. Collaborating with the University’s Community Manager, Stephanie Parson, has enabled us to carry out diverse projects. The University of York Students’ Union (YUSU) has connected us with local schools, and we can market our volunteering opportunities to students through them. We have also been given a stand at the YUSU careers fair in Autumn, where I plan to attend with a small team of volunteers. YUSU has also connected us to their Working Class Network, who are keen to get involved with Role Models Yorkshire. Finally, YUSU has connected us with local schools.

We are also set to collaborate with York Community Consulting, an entirely student run pro-bono consultancy organisation based out of the University of York. This collaboration will give students the opportunity to be mentored on business development in the start-up sector, and will provide us with great feedback about our marketing strategies and developing our business plan. This will hopefully give us the insight we need to further our positive social impact.

We are excited to continue growing our relationship with the University as we seek to identify the barriers faced by young people entering the job market.

 

As told to Paige Henderson, Head of News and Press, Role Models Yorkshire

 Published: 19 August 2019

  

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