Palladium staff and Future Frontiers participants in London, UK
Over four weeks in January and February, Palladium staff in London, UK provided career coaching and professional mentoring to secondary school students from low-income households. Working through the Future Frontiers program, the objective was to provide a group of 14 to 16-year-olds with the skills, tools, and confidence to better plan their academic and professional careers.
For the Palladium team, who are normally focused on delivering projects aimed at improving the lives of people in developing countries, it was rewarding to work with disadvantaged communities just down the road.
“37% of London’s children live in poverty,” explains Eamon Doyle, who managed Palladium’s participation in the program. “We do so much across the globe to create opportunities; it would be a shame not to address the problems closer to home. By reaching out to Future Frontiers, we hoped to do a bit more to help people in need.”
Children from low-income families are much less likely than those from well-to-do households to achieve the qualifications they need to succeed. Many disadvantaged children have no access to professional role models and to the networks they need to understand their career opportunities. While they may have high ambitions, they often don’t know how to meet them.
Some students keep their ambitions lower than their more privileged peers, because the people they know have not been able to achieve as much professionally.
The Future Frontiers program tries to bridge this gap by bringing disadvantaged children and teens together with professionals across the UK, including through business partnerships with companies like Palladium.
Twenty-three Palladium staff and 25 students from south London met for four face-to-face sessions in Palladium’s east London office. Together, they explored the students’ interests and aptitudes, conducted psychometrics tests, researched potential careers, and even set up calls with professionals in the students’ preferred fields – ranging from marine biologist and respirational physiologist to art therapist and technical engineer.
A key goal of the program was to get the students to believe that they can aspire to something big, and it seemed to work. As one student said after the coaching sessions, “I won’t set my bar low anymore.”
In many ways, the sessions benefited the volunteers as much as the students.
“It’s really humbling knowing I have equipped two students with the confidence, drive, and ambition to pursue careers that ignite the students with passion,” says Zeinab Jobber, a Human Resources associate at Palladium who coached two young women.
According to the Future Frontiers’ research, after going through the program, students express greater belief in their abilities to take steps to reach their top careers, and feel more strongly that increasing their efforts at school will help them reach their career goals. They are also much more likely to know where to find information about their career options and how to get there.
An independent evaluation of Future Frontiers by the International Centre for Guidance Studies provided further evidence of the coaching’s positive impact. The centre found that students who’ve taken part in the program “significantly increased their career readiness and showed stronger indicators of successful transitions [to future academic and work destinations] compared to the students who did not take part.”
The program is clearly a win-win for businesses and pupils alike.