Diversity in the digital sector means opening doors for young people
During an early career placement, Mayur was frustrated at how many bright young people from working class and diverse backgrounds were missing out on career opportunities and mentoring.
Through his social enterprise Career Accelerator, he’s now helping to level the playing field in the digital sector.
I’m different from most ambassadors, in that I didn’t do the Teach First Training Programme. In fact, I’ve never been a teacher. For me it started with winning the Innovation Award in 2018.
But it was a few years earlier, during a placement at Ark Globe Academy in South London, that I’d first seen the difference opportunities and connections can make for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. The work we were doing there to link sixth formers up with businesses enhanced their confidence and direction, and opened doors they didn’t otherwise have access to.
Opening the door for young people to exciting careers
That experience inspired me to start Career Accelerator, to help bright young people from diverse backgrounds forge careers in the digital sector. Diversity and access are a big issue in the sector. While digital jobs are being created twice as fast as non-digital jobs, women and people from BAME and LGBT+ backgrounds continue to be underrepresented.
I started by piloting in one school, with 10 kids and 10 employees. It went well, and led to me winning the Teach First Innovation Award in 2018.
An opportunity to commit to my mission
Until then I was working six or seven days a week, very late into the evening. But the salary Teach First provided gave me the headspace and financial security to commit a year of my life and really work hard to grow Career Accelerator.
It also catapulted me from being alone in an office every night, to being surrounded by 300 education leaders and innovators, and belonging to this great network, where I could learn from all my role models. Even today, two years later, I’m still being coached and mentored by Andrew Berwick – the former CEO of The Access Project.
When I won the Innovation Award, I was working with two schools and had a couple of unpaid business partnerships. By the end of the year I was working with eight schools and eight paying businesses, and was much more financially stable and scalable.
Helping students make informed career choices
We now work with 20 businesses, including LinkedIn, Vodafone and Just Eat, and a lot of tech start-ups including GoCardless and TrueLayer. Students benefit from learning about career opportunities in the modern economy, building their confidence and making more informed choices beyond school. We run sessions with them where I bring along young people – including from LGBT+ and BAME backgrounds – who talk about what they’re looking for from an employer.
One of the students we’ve worked with, Daphne, was interested in STEM but wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to focus on. During the summer she was mentored by Vodafone. Instead of the three planned sessions, she ended up having around 10. She bonded so well with her mentor that she was invited to lots of cyber security meetings, and has secured a summer internship at Just Eat.
Making the most of the Teach First community
Beyond Teach First’s direct support, the wider community has been super useful. I attended the Innovation Series final event. There I was able to build relationships with three amazing entrepreneurs. We now check in every month about what we’re up to, what’s going well, any challenges. It’s nice to have that sense of team, so I never feel alone.
A few weeks ago, Teach First invited me to deliver a career’s webinar about diversity to a range of careers staff and ambassadors. That’s been another way to showcase my work at Career Accelerator.
I’d advise anyone to make the most of the Teach First community. But be as intentional and specific about your goals as possible. If people understand your ambitions, they will support you. Then you can achieve your goals.
Like Mayur, if you're part of the community, that makes you a Teach First ambassador. You are now part of a network changing education for the better. Our community consists of teachers, leaders, policymakers and beyond, bringing their expertise to help unlock the potential in all children. No matter where you've chosen to go after your time with Teach First, as an ambassador, you're a critical part of the solution to ending educational inequality.
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