Our Step-Up initiative has had a successful trial at the start of the new school year. There were individual placements and one larger group programme. Healy Hunt Director, Jacky Crisp, who spearheaded this initiative, explains what happened at the group placement and why it was important.
On an Autumn Monday morning at Liverpool Street, I handed out the rail tickets and our small group set off across town. By the start of the working day, four Lower 6th Form students from Stepney Green Maths, Computing and Science College were entering the conference room for induction at our banking sponsor’s building. They all looked understandably nervous.
I have visited the school quite often. It is very dedicated to doing the best for its students, some of whom make it to the likes of Oxbridge and UCL to study medicine, maths and economics. The 6th form staff welcomed our initiative as it’s rare for their students to get placement opportunities in Banking. The students imagined that the people who worked in the industry would be “stiff and boring.” What kind of week was this going to be? All would be revealed.
I won’t mention the bank’s name but from the first minute, they were fabulous. Our four students were given an excellent presentation by the CTO, who put them at ease while introducing the well-conceived structure that had been planned for the week. They would spend time in Credit, Finance, Customer Service and Operations and would be mentored by a buddy in each. They may not have asked any questions by the end of the induction session, but at least their eyes had moved up from ground level.
Fast-forward to the end of a long week of daily cross-town commutes and busy 9 to 5:30 working days. The transformation was amazing. The students had enjoyed a thorough grounding in the business of banking. Confidence levels were through the roof and all four made excellent end of week presentations; smiling and cracking jokes. One high point was a group session in a genuine credit risk meeting, where the bank decided whether a commercial client should receive lending. This stood out for the children because it was so tangible and immediate.
Culturally, the students found everyone to be kind, fun and supportive. Each now had the confidence to contribute and interact and all would consider a career in an industry they knew very little about five days previously.
The bank’s staff found the week equally rewarding and were surprised how proactive and engaged the students became. They liked that it was a grassroots programme and not part of a huge scheme so they felt empowered to make a difference. They intend to run the programme again next year, maybe for two weeks. I have remained in touch with all concerned, reviewing the children’s first CVs and helping one with apprenticeship applications. I will work with Healy Hunt to establish our approach to this for 2020. Watch this space!