Creating social mobility through leadership and sport

By Future TalentEd

How can we help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds believe that all career paths are open to them?

Making the transition into working life is hard for all young people, but can be especially difficult for those from less advantaged background. Caroline Adair, CEO of Leadership Through Sport and Business, explains how working with both football clubs and employers can inspire our future talent.

Can you explain a little bit about how LTSB works from both an employer and apprentice angle?

LTSB is a social mobility charity that connects bright talent from under-represented backgrounds with employers like Grant Thornton, EY and RSM. Our central premise is this: the Young Leaders on our programme have the ability and ambition to do meaningful work with major firms, but they lack the preparation and support to actually begin their careers.

We make sure they find their voice, can navigate the corporate environment and ensure their applications are given the consideration they deserve. By working directly with decision-makers and giving the applicant their rightful context, we make sure a past that was beyond our young people’s control doesn’t limit a bright future.

What would a typical programme look like?

The programme takes about two years, from first contact through to apprenticeship completion. We have a five month pre-apprenticeship education programme that combines exclusive corporate interaction, social action and qualifications to develop our Young Leaders personally and professionally.


We use the internationally-recognised Associations of Accounting Technicians qualification as part of this, so that employers know exactly what their employees can contribute from day one. It also gives our young people a chance to experience the business and finance world, and make an informed decision regarding their future – they should be able to change their minds! This means that the young people our employers hire know what the work entails and are committed to that career path.

We then place our young people in major firms, to do meaningful work in Level 3 apprenticeships. Getting a job is hard, but keeping it can be harder, especially if no one in your family has experienced this life before. We continue to support the apprentices with training and mentoring, providing an additional, valuable level of management and pastoral care for the employer and apprentice alike.

How are sporting teams involved?

We work with the football club foundations of major teams like Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Aston Villa, and they represent a major part of our work.

We need to make the transition into adulthood and the workforce fun for those who can’t afford university

One of the greatest consequences of not having a university education is the loss of those years which many look back on as being primarily enjoyable. Instead of having three more years to grow up, developing independence and a sense of self, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are expected to be adults by 8.45am next Monday – that’s if they can find a job.

Our football delivery partners allow them to learn through social action, running sport sessions for children or volunteering on programme designed to reduce isolation among the elderly. And all of this will make them better at their job.

Why does the UK face such a problem in helping people from disadvantaged backgrounds breakthrough? 

We don’t make our young people clever – they were clever when we found them. That’s why our programme addresses a fundamental unfairness.

Opportunity is not equally distributed. The daughter of a Somali minicab driver from Tower Hamlets doesn’t have the network or support of many of those with whom she will compete at the beginning of a career in finance

She also is under a huge amount of pressure at home either in terms of domestic care duties (which disproportionately disadvantages our young women on the programme, but can affect young men too) or in terms of just settling for what she can actually find, not what she could eventually achieve.

We know from many of our young people that when times are tight, and parents want you to start contributing practically or financially, aiming high is a luxury you can’t afford – unless you see progress immediately. This means there is a narrow window of opportunity for young people from these backgrounds which, once closed, is almost impossible to break through.

Do you believe that stigmas about apprenticeships are changing?

Stigmas are changing, but not quickly enough. We’d love to work with schools, but in truth there is still a huge amount of resistance to non-university outcomes, as that is the ambition that the schools have for their pupils. University can be an incredible, life-changing outcome – but there are bad universities, poorly-regarded degrees, and young people not best suited to academic study. Schools should give them all the information to make an informed decision, and we’re happy to come in to help.

Why should someone work with LTSB?

The business case for diversity is rock-solid, but we know that accessing that talent can be an obstacle. Working with the third sector is an efficient cost-effective way of beginning to transform your workforce.

Charities like LTSB know how much young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have to give, but we need to work with employers so that the talent isn’t lost.


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