Uptree turned 5 last week and as our team has been celebrating all the successes we’ve had on the journey, I’ve been reminding myself of why I left teaching to start a business.
Tamsin Dewhurst, Founder and CEO at Uptree, the professional network connecting young people and employers
Many of the key themes were personal to my experience of being a teacher in an inner city secondary school in London: wanting to have a bigger impact than the classroom, feeling overworked, an inner drive to be part of something innovative; and working to address a real problem.
The biggest issue I saw in education from my experience as a teacher was that,
Access to early careers education and opportunities is unequal.
This is the problem that I wanted to address with Uptree.
My extremely bright and hard working sixth form students gained places at good universities and achieved good grades but many ended up in under-employed jobs despite being graduates. As someone that worked tirelessly in a school and who wanted to create a lasting social impact in education, it was frustrating to see their hard work not paying off.
We hear talk about the skills gap and the lack of diversity in tech, but talent does exist. The issue, I experienced, is barriers to entry remaining too high for those from lower income communities who often lack professional networks, and opportunities to build confidence and employability skills, compared to wealthier peers.
Education and Employers research showed that young adults who recalled four or more employer-led activities while at school were five times more employable and earned, on average, 16% more than peers who recalled no such activities.
Of course there are many success stories of social mobility when students from low income backgrounds do access top careers but their stories are often remarkable, where individuals have gone above and beyond compared to those from more privileged backgrounds to reach the same spot.
Reggie Nelson is an incredibly inspiring individual and a role model who told us,
Navigating hyper-competitive career spaces can be a challenge, particularly if you are on the back foot in regard to race and class. From personal experience, it was the little things that really held me back when trying to excel and build out my career. Things like having completely different interests, not studying at a particularly institution, and hurdling over covert racism, can hit ones confidence pretty hard and that’s what it did to me. However, having amazing people around me, and understanding that the journey I was on was bigger than myself, has helped me to overcome those hurdles, and get me to where I am today.
Reggie sharing his story the Uptree Future Talent Awards last summer
Too often, our education system is failing bright young people that simply lack the exposure to professionals. In some schools, there is minimal time and resources for students to learn about different industries. Doors of companies are rarely open unless you know someone that works there.
Sadly, at times ‘culture fit’ or ‘confidence' takes priority over talent and skill of those who haven't mastered self-promotion to ace an interview. As a result, diverse and skilled talent is too often missed or forgotten. This is why we are working towards equality in early careers at Uptree.
Ashe Owo, Compliance & Operational Risk Control Apprentice at UBS, speaking to Uptree students at an event in Oct 2019
Uptree was founded in 2015 to help employers make their early careers programmes inclusive and accessible for all young people. Uptree designs careers and employability programmes for students at schools across the UK, reaching nearly 58,000 students. From their network, 38% are eligible for Free School Meals and 67% are from BAME backgrounds. Uptree partners with top tech companies including JP Morgan, UBS, Facebook, Google, KPMG, PwC, Deloitte and more. For more information visit: https://uptree.co/employers/