How The Prince’s Trust and Tesco inspire young people to dream big

MORE THAN half of job losses during the first year of the Covid crisis were among the under-25s, official figures show.

Research from the Social Market Foundation, supported by Tesco, found that those from disadvantaged backgrounds have been hardest hit. They have less optimism and less belief in their ability to achieve their goals in life.

Even before the pandemic, young people from low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds were, on average, 18 months behind their classmates when it came to education and were twice as likely to be more frequently absent from school,* which can have a real impact on employment prospects – and now, the gap is at risk of widening.

That’s why Tesco has committed to helping 45,000 young people – whatever their background – build employability skills and jumpstart their careers in the next year. And it has also extended its partnership with The Prince’s Trust, a charity that helps young people aged 11-30 get into jobs, education and training, for a further five years to reach thousands more.

“We cannot allow a two-tier system to emerge where some young people are equipped with the skills and confidence to get on in life and others are left behind,” says Natasha Adams, chief people officer at Tesco. “Employers like us need to do our part to make sure the odds don’t stay stacked against them. Pre-employability programmes that help young people to build their skill sets and confidence early on are vital.”

The Trust runs the Achieve programme for 11- to 19-year-olds in schools and colleges, helping thousands of young people to re-engage with education, grow their confidence and develop the skills that they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond.

A long-term supporter of the programme, Tesco is now funding 100 new Achieve Clubs in areas where young people are most in need, and providing the Trust’s nationwide club network with online content and lesson plans in areas such as digital skills and mental health.

A lot of work within the clubs aims to foster a can-do attitude, says Jo Heffernan, one of the leaders of the Achieve programme and an operations executive in The Prince’s Trust education team.

Young people can be referred to the programme for a variety of reasons. They may be underachieving in education, have special educational needs, or be facing challenges at home.

“A lot of the young people we work with are facing significant challenges and don’t believe in themselves,” Heffernan explains. “The Achieve Clubs challenge that, asking, ‘What would you like to do and how can we help you get there?’ It’s about changing the mindset from, ‘I can’t do it’ to, ‘If I put my mind to it, I can do anything.’”

She knows it’s a policy that works. “Very often, heads of year and senior leaders tell me, ‘He never put his hand up in class but now he’s full of questions.’ The confidence the young people build and assertiveness they develop filter through to every area of their life.”

The clubs motivate students to attend school and make learning more enjoyable. They work towards The Prince’s Trust Personal Development and Employability Skills qualification, which prepares them for further education and develops a range of experience highly valued by employers, as well as growing confidence and improving social skills.

And they are introduced to the world of work and shown what opportunities are available. Tesco is a big part of that, through its staff volunteering programmes and the work experience it offers.

“Tesco makes the world of work real and inspires our young people to investigate careers and opportunities they’d never even heard of,” Jo says. “That’s what Achieve Clubs are all about – planting the seed. It’s really powerful.

“Tesco volunteers provide sessions that give an insight into different jobs available to young people,” Jo continues. “One of my schools spent a day at Tesco’s head office and we met everybody – the store managers, research and development teams and the chefs, who the students actually cooked with. They were in the industrial kitchens tasting and performing quality control – they talked about it for months afterwards!”

Achieve Clubs aren’t Tesco’s only collaboration with The Prince’s Trust. Members of Tesco  staff are now mentoring secondary school students through the trust’s Mosaic programme, which aims to bridge the aspirations-attainment gap by linking young people with inspirational role models.

The supermarket is also working with other charity partners, like Speakers for Schools, providing a breadth of valuable work experience for children aged 14-15 and enabling their business leaders to share their career journeys as part of the Inspirational Speaker programme.

Since 2018, Tesco has helped over 50,000 young people develop employability and life skills through its work with the Trust and plans to reach 200,000 more over the next five years.

“We will continue to do everything we can to make sure young people feel prepared to transition from education to the world of work,” says Tesco’s Natasha Adams. “And once they are ready to step onto the career ladder, we will make sure the opportunities are there for them, whoever they are, whatever their background.”

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