Wed, 17 Mar 2021

Getting a foothold in the workplace has always been a challenge for UK school and college-leavers - but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made this undertaking even more difficult.

Over the last 12 months we’ve been catapulted into a world in which there are less opportunities for students to gain real-world work experience and interactions with employers. We know that youngsters who have four or more engagements with employers are 46% less likely to be NEET when they come out of education, and so removing these barriers is key.

Here at BNP Paribas Personal Finance, we’ve always been passionate about creating opportunities for young people – it’s why we offer best-in-class apprenticeships and upward mobility for our colleagues, meaning people can start, and maintain, a rewarding career within our business.

Across March, we’ve been involved in a series of initiatives to help give young people the opportunity to quiz us on careers, life at BNP Paribas Personal Finance and the skills they’ll need to develop to pursue their chosen path.

To this end, we’ve been working closely with the Ahead Partnership on its Growing Talent #BPFS initiative, which has seen a series of panel debates recorded and offered to almost 200 schools across the West Midlands. Our head of brand and external communications Jayne Licari has been speaking regularly at these, with the latest looking at careers in PR and advertising.

And on National Careers Week itself, at the start of the month, we met youngsters from across the region at the Birmingham and Solihull Careers Fair to give them an insight into the kind of skills they’ll need to be able to demonstrate to enter the professional workplace.

It was an amazing showcase of some of the region’s top employers and included virtual stands, videos, games and puzzles - all of which enabled young people to explore job opportunities within the region.

This is all, of course, on top of the ongoing work so many of our colleagues commit to across the business as part of our 1MillionHours2Help campaign, which commits one million hours of volunteering across the BNP Paribas Group. .

Among our team on the ground for the Birmingham and Solihull Careers Fair was Cameron Ford. Cameron rose through the ranks of our apprenticeship programme and works in our motor finance team.

Considering the impact of these kinds of sessions on the young professionals of tomorrow, Cameron said: “So many children come out of school and feel like they don’t know what to do next. They’ve not thought about the skills they’ve got and how they can translate into the workplace and, in some circumstances, they feel that professional jobs are completely inaccessible to them.

“A big part of what I use these events for is to help them to understand how their skills and personality will best fit into the workplace. It’s about allowing them to think about what they’re good at, what they enjoy doing and what kinds of jobs will best suit those skills and interests.

“I get a huge amount out of helping these young people. These resources have come such a long way since I was at school, they just didn’t exist in quite the same way.

“If I can go out there and help just one person then it is time well-spent to me. Understanding what skills you have and approaching the start of your career with the right attitude will get you a long way.”

Jayne Licari, our head of brand and external communications, said: “It’s vital that we think carefully about how employers can bridge the gap between education and the workplace, and help young people navigate through what can be a very stressful period of their lives.

“We need to help them identify the skills they have and how these can be best used in the workplace. Having recently become an enterprise advisor with a local school, I’ve been collaborating with teachers and students to determine which virtual sessions work best for students and developed a virtual workplace visit which has gone down really well.

“A good attitude and a curiosity to learn are undoubtedly the biggest factors that I’d be looking for in any young person looking to enter the workplace.”

Information and resources from the Birmingham and Solihull Careers Fair are still available to access by visiting