Skills and Education in Responsible Business
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Technology, Media & Telecommunications Predictions Schools Challenge 2016: An exciting vision for the future!
There is a rich and fascinating history that stems from Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM); one that has been pioneered by some of the greatest and most creative minds, including Stephen Hawkins, Tim Berners-Lee and Ada Lovelace.
But despite the feats accomplished in these fields, we know that too few young people are pursuing an active interest in these subjects, with massive implications on their attainment and the opportunities available to them in the future. This is especially true amongst pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, with fifty eight per cent of those eligible for free school meals in 2011 failing to achieve a maths GCSE grade at A*-C (Skills Commission, 2011).
Where we come from is an important part of our identities, however it should not define or limit our aspirations. I was reminded of this while at Moseley School in Birmingham last week, where 40% of the 1,400 students are eligible for free school meals. The importance of social mobility at the school cannot be under-estimated in light of the uncomfortable fact that across the UK, children receiving free school meals achieve 1.7 grades lower at GCSE (source: Child Poverty Action Group). Social mobility is a complex issue, but last week we demonstrated our commitment to playing our part in addressing it through Social Mobility Week and some other commitments.
At Teach First, we are delighted to see the return of Deloitte’s annual Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) Predictions Schools Challenge this year reaching sixth form students from across Deloitte Access partner schools as well as a wider network of schools. The event directly supports our vision to give every child access to a brilliant education and our commitment to tackling the shortage of specialist Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) teachers in the UK.
In recent years, this shortage has meant that schools in low-income communities have been hit especially hard. Less than a third of students eligible for free school meals achieve a science GCSE at grade A*-C, compared with 70% of their wealthier peers.
Growing up in Belfast during the 1970s and 1980s, I was the first person in my family to pass the 11+, to go to grammar school and then onto university. I am now a Partner at Deloitte, one of the biggest management consultancies in the UK. I work hard and enjoy what I do and never really thought that my story was in any way unusual. Having three children of my own now and seeing how hard they have to work and the competition that exists for jobs, I imagine that my story would be less common today.
We know from research that socio-economics is a major determinant of educational outcomes. Another impact of this is that many young people find themselves in challenging schools without the support they need to make the best choices or compete for the best jobs. And this is often exacerbated by employers who want to recruit in the most cost-effective way possible – which often means going to just a select few universities where they can take their pick from a very talented and high performing student population. But increasingly this is not a diverse one.
Our vision at Tong High School is to be the heartbeat of a powerful network in which everyone involved thrives on the challenge to improve and get better every day. Quality, organic, influential networks and partnerships can be the route to the success of schools and students.
At Tong we have been building our powerful network for the past few years. Our local, national and international partnerships are mutually beneficial and positively influence the achievement of all students, staff and our wider community.
There have been many benefits for children and young people arisen through our networks, but the poignant moment for me is when a child realises their aspirations and has the confidence to know that it can become a reality.
As a school we play a vital role in building and creating a powerful network. Not all children and young people are fortunate enough to come from families who have personal networks which allow doors to open.
Recent positive news about the UK economy has been incredibly welcome. Britain is back growing and working. And the positive news on our education system, announced in last month’s school leagues tables, proves that Britain is learning too. More schools are meeting government targets and our country’s talented and dedicated teachers are creating a brighter future for many young people. But we are failing the next generation until all young people have the opportunity to secure a successful future for themselves and our country. The business community can change all this.
Last month after 35 years in industry I was delighted to become Chair of the charity Teach First. And I’ve joined at an exciting time, with the fortunes of six Teach First teachers being the subject of the acclaimed BBC Three documentary Tough Young Teachers.
Not long after Brett Wigdortz established Teach First, Deloitte engaged in doing what we do best. We used our skills and capabilities to support the organisation’s growth and established a relationship that is now over 10 years old and which in my view sets the standard for the many charity partners we have established since.
In the early days we provided accountancy support to help get the charity up and running and one of our audit partners, Sarah Shillingford, remains a Trustee today. Our initial relationship was through graduate recruitment and we worked with Teach First to interview potential graduates who would teach for two years and then join Deloitte’s graduate programme. Over time the relationship has grown and evolved.
All companies, large and small, across the breadth of the economy need to invest in the skills and talents of their staff. This is not just a matter of keeping up appearances and being able to boast about having the most qualified workforce in the land, but good societal sense. From the perspective of a company, investing to create a highly skilled workforce means having a workforce that is more productive, motivated and can improve the quality of the service or product in question. From the perspective of employees, increased skills can improve their earning potential and expand their career horizons.
Added to that, employees moving between organisations will bring new perspectives to old problems, share their skills and experiences with others to spread good practices and help develop the nation’s overall skills base.
As part of our own Deloitte Impact Report we undertook some analysis to understand our own talent impact.
On 20 August 2013, fifty of us, students from Afro Caribbean backgrounds, identified as future leaders, started day one of the Deloitte and Powerlist Foundation Summer Leadership Programme. I believe it changed our lives.
It provided us with a lifelong network of other successful people. Most of us had never been in a room with people who had high career aspirations like ourselves, had already started successful businesses or simply shared the same interests that some of our friends at home failed to understand. I think it helped to form a transition in our mind-set from leaders of our societies at University, in our local communities, to leaders of the world, leaders of the now.
Having completed sixth form in 2011, my year group was the last class to pay £3k per year to study for a degree. Some may see this as lucky as the unfortunate ones an academic year behind us would be indebting themselves treble that amount. However that wasn’t enough to persuade me to accept the offer and pack my bags for university.
The state of the UK economy has made it very difficult for young people to be able to fund themselves for university and find paid jobs. Having taking that into consideration, I unleashed what I like to call my ‘inner-fearless-risk taker’ and set out on a mission to find myself a full time job. If I wasn’t working for Deloitte today I’d either be piling up the debt of university and drowning in books or struggling to find my feet in the world of work with the 957,000 other 16-24 year olds in the UK who were unemployed in June-August 2012 (source: ONS).