A student at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) says he is more optimistic about his career prospects after taking part in the EY Foundation Smart Futures programme.
Jason Uwaechie, 17, successfully secured a place on the programme, which provides paid work experience, employability skills training and the 10-month support of a business mentor.
He was encouraged by Work Placement Officer Lola Ramsden to apply for the Impactful Futures programme, which gives students the chance to learn and experience more about careers in the charity sector.
Jason undertook a work placement with Sapphire Employability and Wellbeing Academy, which aims to empower young people from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds in London through employability, wellbeing and enrichment support.
Prior to the placement he joined students from other colleges in speed networking sessions with representatives from across the charity sector to hear more about their roles and organisations. He also took part in workshops that covered leadership and communication skills, self-reflection and interview techniques.
Students were later placed into group’s where they were asked to come up with an idea for a charity and give a Dragons’ Den style pitch to charity leaders from Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity, Save The Children and the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations.
Jason’s team came up with a charity called Perfect Pupils, which aimed to provide eye care to underprivileged people in Africa who do not have access to quality ophthalmologic services.
Although his team did not win the challenge, Jason was awarded Best Speaker by the panel of experts who were impressed with the way he gave a persuasive personal anecdote and encouraged another member of his team to do the same during the presentation.
Jason said: “I‘ve never really had this kind of opportunity before and was surprised at how much I accomplished on the programme.
“It gave me optimism and a sense that I could achieve the positions of the people I was working with. I didn’t really see being a manager as something I could do. I thought I would just go and work at Tesco or somewhere like that, but now I’m striving for better. It’s given me much more self-belief and confidence.
“The programme also taught me a lot about perseverance and discipline. It showed me that even when things feel overwhelming and difficult, you still can achieve the outcome you want regardless of how you feel at that moment. It’s also helped me prepare for my future by opening my mind to the different routes you can take in life without the fear of failure.”
Jason is receiving monthly one-to-one mentoring sessions over the next year with Salahuddin Sally-Oceane, Senior Partnerships Development Executive at Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity, to support him as he explores his option and makes decisions about his future career.
Jason said: “My mentor has been working with me to boost my public speaking abilities and is helping me to be as productive as possible. A good piece of advice he gave me was to listen more than you speak, and when you do speak make sure that what you’re saying is relevant.
“I feel very confident about my future after taking part in this programme. It’s great that the college offer opportunities of this sort to students, so they can see first-hand that you can do anything you believe in no matter where you come from.”
The EY Foundation is an independent charity set up by financial giant EY, which helps young people to succeed in the workplace by tackling barriers they face and supporting them into higher education and employment.
Claire Broomby, Programme Lead at EY Foundation, said: “Jason was a delight to have on our Impactful Futures programme. He took every opportunity and pushed himself out of his comfort zone to interact with and network with people throughout the programme.
“A highlight for me was seeing him presenting and pitching in front of a group of third sector leaders, and giving an impromptu acceptance speech at our graduation where he accepted his Best Speaker award. His warm and inclusive nature created a really positive experience for his peers.
“Jason is a wonderful young man, clearly growing in confidence and taking risks to push the boundaries of his capabilities. I have no doubt he has a very bright future ahead of him.”