After a monumentally challenging year, with schools and colleges closed from March to July, WhiteHat's outreach endeavours with our youth and education partners persevered, supporting over 11,000 young people, parents, teachers and advisers by spreading the word about what apprenticeships have to offer.
2020 was particularly difficult for many young people. With schools and colleges closed, many youth clubs and extracurricular activities paused, and youth unemployment increasing, it was more important than ever that we worked with our community to provide opportunities for young people to learn about alternative career paths in business, tech, finance and other sectors. From our first Virtual Open Day to launching the Tech Talent Accelerator programme with Generation UK, 2020 was a year when we continued to push the boundaries of youth outreach in new and engaging ways.
How do we support young people through outreach?
We believe apprenticeships have the potential to be an incredible vehicle for social mobility. The Social Mobility Commission has reported that the English apprenticeship system can improve the UK’s social mobility - but only if it provides better support and access to young talent from disadvantaged backgrounds.
At WhiteHat, we believe that while talent is evenly distributed, the opportunity is not. That is why our Outreach Team is dedicated to reaching young people who are from backgrounds underrepresented in the sectors we operate or who are facing barriers to employment to feel inspired and empowered to pursue an apprenticeship.
We offer a 3-pronged outreach programme:
- Schools and Colleges liaison programme: We're working with students in schools and colleges from Year 10 to Year 13 so that they find out about apprenticeships at the times they’re making decisions about next steps. This included training teachers and careers advisers to support students to create high-quality apprenticeship applications and really understand the range of apprenticeships on offer.
- Missioned aligned-partnerships: We work extensively with mission-aligned organisations including Jobcentre Plus, local authorities, and charities to reach young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) within the services and support they are already accessing. These young people often face the most significant barriers to education and employment.
- Tech-focused outreach: We aim to reach young people from underrepresented groups within the tech industry. We have delivered inspiring tech programmes such as our Tech Expo Series - a localised event held in each region of London. This event aims to encourage young people from underrepresented groups to uptake and be informed about a career within the digital and tech industries, accompanied by our intensive outreach.
How did we adapt to the Covid-19 crisis?
We're proud to say that we quickly transformed our predominantly face-to-face outreach offer to a highly engaging digital offer as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.
Here are some of the main initiatives we implemented:
Virtual Schools Liaison
As school closures were announced, we swiftly established virtual opportunities to educate and support students, teachers, and parents on apprenticeships. We are proud to say that we have supported 127 teachers and career leads through WhiteHat's Champion Training Programme, which equips educational professionals and youth mentors with the guidance on how to support young people who are looking to make a competitive application to the roles WhiteHat has on offer.
WhiteHat's apprentices across Ipsos, British Land, Starling Bank, Google, Bloomberg, Digital Catapult, Sky and Santander volunteer their time to encourage the future generations of apprentices, whilst developing their public speaking, confidence, and networking skills along the way.
Our Apprentice Volunteers delivered 70 engagements with schools and colleges this year, 58 of which were virtual demonstrating their adaptability and commitment to inspiring future generations.
Visiting universities to make decisions about your next steps is a right of passage for many sixth form and college students, so why shouldn’t young people considering apprenticeships get the same opportunity? This year, our Annual Open Day went virtual and was our biggest one yet, with 170 attendees over 2 sessions! Our amazing coaches joined to explain the various apprenticeship programmes we offer. At the end of the day, 93% of attendees said they would consider an apprenticeship, as opposed to 75% at the start of the session.
Digital Skills Development
As a result of Covid-19, traditional industries are digitalising, new sectors emerging, and our ways of working are rapidly changing.
Many young people face barriers to employment since access to digital skills training is often expensive. That's why WhiteHat and Generation UK, with the BlackRock Charitable Foundation's funding, has launched the Tech Talent Accelerator programme - a six-week pre-apprenticeship bootcamp aimed at building core technical skills including IT and coding skills in addition to employability coaching.
Despite decades of work towards workplace equality, women remain woefully underrepresented in the UK's technology workforce. According to WISE, just 23% of the people working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) roles across the UK are female.
In February half-term 2020 , in partnership with Tandem Bank and Curve, WhiteHat invited 14 young women to complete a two-day immersive programme exploring the FinTech industry.
The programme was a huge success, reflecting on the event, a participant said:
"I didn't expect to learn all the things that I learnt. It persuaded me to get into FinTech as I didn't know what it was. I also think I will apply for an apprenticeship in FinTech. It was great and very informative."
Targeted outreach programmes like this give young women an inclusive space to explore their options and the practical skills and advice to make it happen.
In July, we hosted our Local Tech Expo - and went virtual too! In partnership with Livity, young people from South London and beyond joined us to learn about the different career paths within the creative and tech industries. With 67 young people attending, over 58% said that they viewed apprenticeships as a suitable alternative to university.
Tackling Youth Unemployment
WhiteHat's commitment to democratising access to the best careers has never been more critical. With the pandemic's effects leading to an increase in youth unemployment, we have been proactive in supporting action to curb the rise of youth unemployment.
Our longstanding partnership with Drive Forward, a charity supporting young care leavers into employment, has led to successful placement for a care leaver and has helped many other young people become career-ready.
Additionally, we have joined forces with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Jobcentre Plus to contribute to the National Mentoring Circles Initiative to tackle employment inequality across the UK.
The North London District Mentoring Circles Lead commented on the success of involvement saying:
"It is so rewarding to be able to work in collaboration to connect opportunity-seeking young people to valuable, passionate and committed employers/ partners. The presentations were fantastic and the young people were proactively engaged. It was just brilliant to be part of the success."
Furthermore, throughout the year we were proud to support other organisations such as Teach First, Redbridge Council, Hackney Virtual School, Oxford Scholastica Academy, ORT UK, Lloyds Community Programme, Street League, The Brokerage, Local Globe, NCS, The Black Tech Fest, The Maths Society, LEAN EAST, Unifrog, Sucess at School and Westminster City Council.
We are excited about what we have accomplished and look forward to making even more of a positive impact in 2021!