Following WPA & Young Westminster Foundation’s supercharging social mobility event, 2-3 Degrees co-founder and CEO Carl Konadu, BEM talked to us about the role businesses can play in improving social mobility for young people from underrepresented backgrounds.
Do I belong here?
Will I fit in?
Will I enjoy it?
The first time I walked into the Lord Mayor’s parlour – on the top floor of Westminster City Hall, overlooking the borough and so many other iconic buildings – these were the thoughts going through my head. As a young black man in a space that is predominantly white, middle class and different from me, it’s easy to let the grandeur of it all stop you from simply enjoying the experience.
Much like I did, a lot of young people probably feel the same – especially those who are unfamiliar with the professional environment. That’s why social mobility is so important; it helps raise awareness of what’s possible, increases cultural capital, and expands a young person’s network. The Mastering My Future programme (MMF) has been working on this for the past four years in Westminster. It’s an employability programme designed to give young people a wrap-around experience through inspirational workshops, mentoring and work experience with the incredible businesses in the Borough of Westminster.
We’ve engaged with over 500 young people in the borough, helping them develop the personal development skills needed to fulfil their potential. Through challenge days with Addison Lee, Coca-Cola and Channel 4. Tours with Derwent London, Grosvenor and workshops with the Next Gen from the Westminster Property Association. Not to mention the employers that have joined as mentors through our partners Westminster Befriend a Family and work experience through Inspire!
There are 71,000 young people in Westminster (28.7% of the population) and over ¼ of them said they felt anxious about their future, their job opportunities, housing and the rich/poor divide (Young Westminster Foundation). That’s why we are encouraging businesses to join the programme and contribute to giving life-changing opportunities and exposure to young people in Westminster.
There are signs that the tide is turning in Westminster, not just through the MMF programme but through some of the amazing things happening in the borough. This year, Councillor Hamza Taouzzale became the youngest (22) and first ever Muslim to be the Lord Mayor of Westminster. As Lord Mayor, he also serves as the Abbey’s Deputy High Steward for his term of office.
Fewer than 1 in 5 (18%) of the UK’s 16-24 year olds feel positive about their future career prospects (NCFEW 2020).
So, think back to your 16 year old self:
- What did you want to do?
- What did you want to try?
- Where did you want to go?
Not many people actually know what they want to do at 16, and rightly so, because they haven’t yet experienced enough to make a lifelong decision. What is important is feeling as though you have the opportunities to go and find, explore, and come to a conclusion about what you want to do. This is where we want to make the difference.
Thank you to the Young Westminster Foundation and London Property Alliance (CPA & WPA) for putting together Supercharging Social Mobility, an event for us to talk about how we increase access to opportunities for young people in Westminster.
Thank you to the great panel for joining me in unearthing some ways forward, I am excited to continue working with everyone on the Mastering My Future programme too:
If you are a business and would like to find out more about the Mastering my Future Programme, get in touch:
Oyin Olaoshun, Programme Manager, 2-3 Degrees, firstname.lastname@example.org