Developing the skills of disadvantaged students, expanding their pathway to employability

Removing barriers to access the skills needed to thrive in the working world


Helping teachers and carers build confidence in the workforce of tomorrow #itstime

One of today’s most critical challenges is ensuring young people have equal access to the skills they need for the digital world. PwC estimates that 20-40% of the jobs currently held by 16-24 year olds may be automated by the mid-2030s1.

With the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic still shaping traditional learning environments, today more than ever, young people are faced with a complex set of obstacles² to prepare and equip themselves with confidence and employability skills for the workforce of the future. Research from the Education and Employers Taskforce³ shows that young people who have four or more encounters with the world of work whilst at school are 86% less likely to not be in education, employment or training (NEET) and on average will go on to earn 18% more than their peers who did not have such opportunities.

COVID-19 has also changed the idea of who takes on the role of teacher. With more young people being schooled from home due to lock downs, parents and carers are finding themselves carrying multiple roles (i.e teacher, parent and supporting the family financially), which can be a highly complex and stressful environment.

PwC’s purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. One way we strive to be a responsible business is to support our people and communities, both those we work in and beyond. We aim to empower our communities to help reduce inequality, raise aspirations and promote social and digital inclusion.

PwC UK’s Social Mobility Community Programme focuses on supporting disadvantaged school students, undergraduates and other social mobility beneficiary groups such as refugees and PwC UK Social Entrepreneur Club members. The programme brings together a community of PwC UK professionals, who are passionate about delivering programmes in their local regions.


Creating an inclusive open source, virtual skills programme

As part of PwC UK’s Social Mobility Community Programme, they have developed and implemented two virtual skills programmes, aimed at secondary school students - New world. New skills. School Series and their Employability Skills Toolkit.

PwC UK has just completed their Spring 2021 New world. New skills. Schools Series, a large scale virtual schools programme involving sustained engagement and covering topics such as teamwork and problem solving, delivering content weekly over a period of six weeks.

The content is delivered via:

  • 20-30 minute pre-recorded videos delivered by PwC UK volunteers
  • Optional challenges for students which are reviewed by PwC UK volunteers and the students are provided with feedback
  • Optional self guided learning for the students each week covering a broader range of topics such as goal setting, teamwork, leadership, speaking and listening and staying positive
  • Teachers also have access to PwC UK’s Employability Skills Toolkit (see further information below)

The programme is aimed at social mobility target secondary schools (age 11-18 years) in England - which include schools with a higher than average proportion of students in receipt of free school meals⁴ (as per Department for Education publically available data) and schools in coldspots⁵, places that have few opportunities for social progress.

The programme was developed by PwC UK, and it offers teachers the flexibility to implement the programme modules in a way that is appropriate for their students. To help ensure all students were provided with the opportunity to participate in the programme, the PwC UK team were very purposeful in targeting teachers to sign up students rather than students being responsible to self nominate.

With COVID-19 continuing to impact teachers and students in the UK, the PwC UK team created additional guidance for parents and carers on using the materials at home. A student workbook is also available to support students, particularly those who are accessing school remotely.

An Employability Skills Toolkit has been designed for students from 8-18 years, it is open source and offers free lesson plans for teachers and career professionals who want to help develop young people’s skills for the workforce of the future. Topics include; technology, financial literacy and wellbeing, and each lesson pack comes with a lesson plan, presentation and engaging activities.

Additional guidance has now been made available for parents and carers using the resources at home.


Combining our skills, to give career choice to students #togetherwesolve

PwC UK volunteers have been integral to the programme’s success, from developing the course content, pre-recording videos, reviewing and providing feedback to the challenges, and responding to questions from the teachers and students.

“For me, it was an opportunity to use my skills and experience and allowed me to reflect on what I’d have loved to have been aware of in high school [Secondary School], when it came to the importance of ‘soft skills’ in applying for jobs and having resilience during difficult times. I wanted to help create something meaningful that could encourage and inspire students to realise they can harness and improve vital skills like leadership in their everyday [life].”

Charlotte Cumming,Corporate Affairs, PwC UK

In February 2021 PwC UK started their second round of the programme targeting 11-14 year old students. So far the programme has been very well received by the UK school community:

  • To date, over 3,500 students across the UK have already engaged with the sessions. Over 90% of these students are from our social mobility target schools.
  • PwC UK  aligned the content with the Gatsby Benchmark (a framework of guidelines that define excellence in career guidance in the UK).
  • PwC UK mainly used charities and third party organisations to market the programme to schools.
  • The sign-on platform, developed by PwC UK, is designed so that the team can understand engagement, participation and reach, which enables them to make changes to the programme as required.

As schools start to return to teaching in physical classrooms again, PwC UK hopes to introduce a face to face element to this programme going forward.

1PwC UK, 2018. How will automation impact jobs?.Available here
2Elks, S., 2021. Donated laptops are bridging the 'digital divide' for children in UK lockdown, World Economic Forum.
3Dr Mann, A., Dr Kashefpakdel, E.T., Rehill, J., Professor Huddleston, P., 2017. Contemporary transitions: Young Britons reflect on life after secondary school and college. Education and Employers,
4UK Department of Education, 2021. Free School Meals

5UK Social Mobility Commission, 2017. State of the Nation 2017, p.6

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Colm Kelly

Colm Kelly

Global Corporate Sustainability Leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited

Bethan Grillo

Bethan Grillo

Global Corporate Sustainability Managing Director, PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited