PwC UK takes a hands on approach to upskilling youth and demystifying the world of work

PwC UK’s New world.New Skills. Schools Series continues to upskill disadvantaged youth

Situation

Helping to break down the barriers to employability often faced by youth #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 be categorised as ‘Not 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.

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

Experience

Creating an open source programme for youth to identify a pathway to employability  #bethesolution 

Following the development and delivery of PwC UK’s two virtual skills programmes, the PwC UK Social mobility team developed and delivered a Dragons Den programme as part of their New world. New skills - (NwNs) Schools Series. The Dragons Den programme is targeted at 11-14 year olds in schools in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland and can be delivered both virtually and in person. The programme is designed to develop the students’ entrepreneurial skills, build awareness of emerging technologies and enable the students to find confidence to be able to participate in the future workforce. 

The workshops entail bite sized pre recorded skills sessions hosted by PwC UK staff along with tasks to complete that can be facilitated by a teacher in the classroom. To support the teachers they developed the Dragon’s Den: Teacher handbook too. The pre-recorded sessions focussed on learning about: 

  • The essential 8 emerging technologies including augmented reality (AR), robotics, 3D printing, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, virtual reality (VR), drones, Internet of Things (IoT) 
  • How to develop an idea and problem solving
  • How to create a pitch to sell your idea

Following these sessions the students are then encouraged to prepare a pitch outlining the problem they are trying to solve and the solution and present it back to the class for feedback.

Students at PwC office

In August, 2021 PwC UK delivered a unique New world. New skills. Work Experience programme that welcomed 195 students from lower socio-economic backgrounds aged 16-17 years to join a paid week long work experience at PwC UK. Throughout the week, students participated in different sessions hosted by PwC UK staff that focussed on: 

  • Understanding the different business units within PwC
  • Problem solving
  • Speaking and listening
  • Anxiety and resilience

Students were given the opportunity to work from the PwC UK office for a portion of the week if it was easier for them than working from home, and all students were supplied with a laptop for the week and then given a personal laptop indefinitely after participating in the programme. 

Towards the end of 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic lock down restrictions began to ease, the opportunities to do more in person events became possible. Therefore when PwC UK launched their New World. New Skills - Autumn School Series, it was delivered in two parts over six weeks, part one virtually and part two in person. The programme focussed on helping students identify their goals, build skills for employability and demystify the world of work. PwC UK worked with Skillsbuilder Partnership⁵ to identify the best skills to focus on to help the students prepare for the future.  

  • Part 1 (delivered virtually) 
    A 60min skill session focussing on ‘Aiming high and setting goals’. The session was presented by PwC UK’s volunteers; students were encouraged to work in groups to share ideas.
  • Part 2 (delivered in a classroom setting at PwC UK’s offices)
    Students were presented with three project briefs and had 90 mins to explore the problems and come up with solutions. The process was supported by PwC UK volunteers working with the students to help challenge their thinking and encourage ideation.

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3:10

New World. New Skills - Schools Series overview

An insight into our 'New World. New Skills - Schools Series' social mobility programme, that gives students an opportunity to connect with members of our business whilst developing key employability skills.

View Transcript

Impact

Demystifying the workplace, creating an inclusive more equitable approach to the workforce of the future  #togetherwesolve

Of those students attending the New world. New skills. Work Experience programme, 58% were female and 77% were from ethnic minority backgrounds⁶. PwC UK’s Social Mobility team’s aim is to run their Work Experience programme every year across all their PwC UK offices and have already recruited 250 students for the August 2022 cohort.

“Being able to come in and visit and speak to employers and hear their journeys, hear their pathways into that career was really beneficial to them, because it opens up their minds, opens up their world to all the opportunities that are available to them.”

Bethany Thompson Teacher at Mulberry Stephney Green

Following PwC UK’s New world. New skills Work Experience programme, the New world. New skills.- Schools Series ran for six weeks in Autumn and a series was delivered in the Spring for younger year groups. Both series combined saw PwC UK work with:

  • Over 100 schools across the UK
  • More than 3000 students*
  • Involving over 350 PwC UK volunteers from across all PwC UK offices

On completion of the programme, teachers rated their students’ key skills against a Skills Builder Benchmark.⁷ PwC UK found that all schools who completed the form saw an increase in skills including speaking, listening, teamwork and problem solving following participation in the New world. New skills -  Schools Series.

*Eligible schools were required to meet PwC UK’s social mobility criteria which is aimed at social mobility target secondary schools (age 11-18 years) in England. Including schools with a higher than average proportion of students in receipt of free school meals⁸ (as per Department for Education publically available data) and schools in coldspots⁹, places that have few opportunities for social progress.

¹PwC UK, 2018. How will automation impact jobs? Website link
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.
⁴Skillsbuilder Partnership, 2022. Website.
⁵PwC UK Social Mobility team, May 2022. 
⁶PwC UK Social Mobility team, March 2022. 
⁷Skillsbuilder Partnership Benchmark, 2022. Website 
⁸UK Department of Education, 2021. Free School Meals
⁹UK Social Mobility Commission, 2017. State of the Nation 2017, p.6

 

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Bethan Grillo

Bethan Grillo

Global Corporate Sustainability Managing Director, PwC United Kingdom

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