In National Careers Week (6th to 11th March) Career Accelerator, an education business that connects businesses and young people is shining a light on how firms can nurture diverse talent and build talent pipelines through schools outreach opportunities.
Career Accelerator works with companies including Cisco, Pearson, Just Eat, Vodafone and GoCardless to offer 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.
Students that engage with businesses can develop knowledge, experience and skills that are valued in the workplace, whilst businesses can address skills shortages, boost diversity and talent pipelines, as well as provide developmental opportunities for their employees.
A report last year, ‘Diversity in Tech and its Role in Future Equality’ by Wiley Edge[i] found that 64% of businesses are struggling to retain diverse employees. But equally nearly half of young tech workers (48%) have felt uncomfortable in a job because of their gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background or neurodevelopmental condition.
Also, it was reported that there were around 870,000 tech and digital job vacancies available January to May 2022, the highest number ever recorded since job search engine Adzuna began collecting data in May 2012. It was also revealed that tech roles now make up 14% of all job opportunities in the UK, up from 11% in 2019[ii].
Mayur Gupta, CEO at Career Accelerator said: “Despite a big push in recent years to improve diversity in workplaces, many firms are still failing to become attractive places for underrepresented groups to work. We are helping to change this by encouraging firms to engage with young people from diverse backgrounds whilst they are still at school.
“Preparing diverse young people for careers in the modern economy and supporting businesses to provide employee training, volunteering, and marketing opportunities is making a real difference to diversity and inclusion. It’s giving young people the chance to shine and develop careers they may not have thought open to them and for employers to gain fresh perspectives and widen their talent pool.”
Cisco has been working with Career Accelerator for the past three years helping young people from low income and diverse backgrounds prepare for careers in the digital sector. They run a school’s 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: “It’s great making an impact in someone’s career by helping them in areas that they are not familiar with yet. I helped Kade improve his software engineering skills, and gave some suggestions to him on how to deal with his manager to achieve his goals and setting a roadmap of things he could work on.”
He adds, “I also learned a lot from him, so it was a very good experience. Mentoring someone helps you develop your communication skills and understand the needs of people who have barely started 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 worked with Career Accelerator over the past three years firstly with their race network, and more recently they have started neurodiversity and disability mentoring.
They offered work experience to students from diverse backgrounds. Students in their final year of GCSE’s or studying for ‘A’ levels were based in British Gas’s commercial team, gaining exposure to different parts of the business to help prepare them for their future careers.
Donna Anderson from Centrica said: “I’ve loved having the opportunity to support someone from a diverse background and at the same time give something back to our society. It really helped me to work with someone who had never had any exposure to my business before and to appreciate the different ages and stages that people come into a working environment and the different needs they might have.
“It helped me as an experienced mentor, to flex my style from working with an adult to an under 16 and adapt my advice and activities to suit the relevant age. Not knowing who my mentee would be, or his background was a great reminder to be open, transparent and provide a safe place for someone to be themselves and to never pre-judge or have bias of anyone regardless of age, race, culture, ability etc.”