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Inside Grant Thornton

Helping young people through RISE

The RISE initiative equips students with vital employability skills so they can learn about life in business and raise their career aspirations. Lynne Drury, our Head of Risk and Resilience, shares her experience of volunteering with RISE.

RISE focuses on helping students aged 14-16 from lower socio-economic backgrounds and living in remote locations – delivering skilled workshops and creating bespoke classroom resources for teachers. 

Our firm is a founding partner of RISE, and we’ve worked closely with leading accounting organisations (the ICAEW, BDO, EY Foundation, KPMG and PwC) and education experts from the The Talent Foundry to develop, launch and scale the programme. So far, we’ve delivered 18 workshops and reached over 1000 students, with 65 volunteers who have introduced young people to career possibilities that they may not have previously considered.

This initiative prioritises building a talented workforce to fill the skills gap for the future economy. RISE can raise aspirations among students from low socio-economic backgrounds by ensuring they have the skills required to succeed in life and work, regardless of their background.

The disruption to education over the past two years means that many students have likely missed out on meaningful opportunities, like work experience placements or day trips. RISE exists to reach more students who may not otherwise have exposure to firms like ours.

​​​​​​​Being involved with RISE helps me feel involved in making a real social impact.

I believe that everyone, regardless of their background, should have the same access to opportunities. Lots of young people aren’t even aware what those opportunities are, and even if they do, they may not think they have the skills or confidence to pursue them.

After watching a recording of the launch event, I signed up to volunteer straight away. It literally brought a tear to my eye hearing the challenges some young people in more-deprived schools within disadvantaged areas face, and how the programme has the potential to change lives.​​​​​​​

Volunteering has been a fun and fulfilling experience. I took part in a workshop for GCSE-aged students at The Archbishop Lanfranc Academy in Croydon with four others from different professional services firms. The session was led by a facilitator from the Talent Foundry and our role as volunteers was to mentor the students.

During the workshop, students took part in challenges that required them to use core transferable skills like communication, listening, and problem solving. It encouraged them to work collaboratively in way that was both similar to the classroom environment and relevant to the workplace. We engaged, motivated, and encouraged them and were on hand to give the students insight into the world of work.

The pandemic has knocked the confidence of many of these young people. They found it difficult to identify and talk about what they were good at. Many are behind in their studies and have missed important development opportunities. However, working with them reinforced just how resilient, passionate, and adaptable they are and, now more than ever, showed how valuable investing time in young people through initiatives like this is.

I saw a huge amount of untapped potential that exists in young talent. It makes me proud to work for a firm that recognises this and is so committed to bringing in people from all socio-economic backgrounds, while also ensuring that progression is fair.

RISE wants young people to have the skills required to succeed, in life and work. What struck me was that the young people I worked with already had many of the experiences and skills they need to succeed in the workplace, they just didn’t know it or know how to articulate it.

Just five positive interactions with adults in professional careers is enough to influence a young person’s aspirations. This is particularly important for those who lack access to these interactions through family, friend, or local networks day-to-day. A small amount of our time has the potential to make an enormous difference to these young peoples’ futures.

Taking part has shown me the importance and value of using my experience and skills I’ve developed during my career to positively impact others in society, and how enjoyable and fulfilling that can be at the same time. I’ll definitely be volunteering again.

Find out more about what we're doing to support social mobility in the workplace