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COVID-19: Employer Pledges


Experts are predicting the gap in achievement between the best- and worst-off young people could widen by up 75% for those most in need, so in 2020-21 we're working harder than ever with our employer partners to improve young people's workplace skills and prepare them for life beyond COVID-19. 

Work-related benefits are quickly rising (in lots of cases doubling) since lockdown was announced in March, studies predict that disadvantaged young people in the UK face the biggest impact from a COVID-19 recession and in the latest study from the Careers & Enterprise Company 74% of teachers say employability skills are the most important focus in preparing young people for work post-COVID19.

To ensure we can continue to work with employers to support disadvantaged young people across the UK we have created an exciting and innovative programme of activities. Our employer partners have committed their support in 2020-21 to make sure we can combat the uncertainty facing young people and give them the most up-to-date, relevant support and guidance on what their future might look like when it comes to careers, getting them ready for life and industry beyond COVID-19.

Here is what just some of them have shared about why they work with Ahead Partnership.

PwC - Katherine Bond, Talent Engagement Manager

PwC covid pledge

PwC have been working with the Ahead Partnership for over three years in Leeds and, more recently, in the West Midlands and across the whole of Yorkshire. We value our relationship with the Ahead Partnership and are consistently impressed with the quality of the service that the team provides, including the time and effort that they invest in helping us to connect with diverse young people and teachers. Ahead provides excellent support and inspiration for PwC, for our volunteers and for young people and their teachers.

Our work with the Ahead Partnership will continue into the new academic year, because we, like the Ahead Partnership, are committed to raising the aspirations of disadvantaged young people, as well as improving their employability skills, confidence and job prospects.

Young people should not fear the change or the future. The job market is constantly changing, and with every change, there are new opportunities to be seized. COVID-19 is causing huge challenges for a number of employers, their staff and many young people too. It's important to understand that the intense turmoil is temporary, and that things will improve. During this time, it's key for young people to continue networking with employers, attending virtual events and investing time in preparing themselves for the world of work through events, courses and simply reflecting on their skillset. Careful reflection, research and preparation will equip you really well to seize opportunities when they arise. 

We thoroughly enjoy working with the whole team at the Ahead Partnership, and we're looking forward to deepening our relationship to enable us to make a greater impact across the region. We look forward to being able to draw on the expertise, insights and ideas that the Ahead Partnership offers, particularly as we adapt our own approach to enable us to continue inspiring young people despite the challenges that we're facing.

DLA Piper - Karen Thornton, Business Analyst

DLA Piper covid pledge

DLA Piper’s areas of focus for Corporate Responsible Business (CSR) are Education, Economic Empowerment and Equality and we feel that the activities that Ahead Partnership offers support this focus. Feedback from team members who have taken part in our Ahead Partnership programme shows that colleagues value the opportunity to take part, deepening their empathy with young people in the region and they enjoy the opportunity to provide support in the community.

The way people work is changing rapidly, and businesses increasingly are looking for people who have a flexible mindset and an agile approach to working.  Business, itself, is adapting to enabling people to work in different ways.  Change is unsettling but also signals new opportunities so employers are working towards designing different products, services and working environments to welcome employees of the future.

As a law firm that has always placed high value on face-to-face relationships, we have learning a lot about working remotely during lock down.  We are looking forward to being able to deliver flexibly with Ahead Partnership and explore new options for making support available to young people and schools.

Imagile Group - Ellie Sinclair, Senior Operations Manager

Imagile covid pledge

Since 2007 we've been working with Ahead Partnership to help children prepare for the world of work and give them the choice of opportunities to be involved in throughout there education.

Ahead Partnership continue to deliver an exceptional service which has helped thousands of children so far, and Imagile are proud to continue to help them going forwards with our investment.

We are really looking forward to new ways of training and involvement at a distance due to the COVID19 situation to support even more young people at school during 2020-21.

BNY Mellon - Matthew Rayner, Senior Product Specialist

BNY Mellon covid pledge

We have been working with Ahead Partnership since 2017 as they are well aligned with BNY Mellon’s philanthropic strategy around Economic Empowerment and Technology and Digital Capabilities. We have seen the local impact that our support has had in creating panels and events focusing on STEM/Digital careers, but Ahead Partnership also offered our employees the option of being involved in difference aspects of the events as volunteers.

At this time, young people need to understand that for traditional office-based jobs, COVID-19 has proved that many roles can be performed effectively from anywhere. This is likely to lead to increased flexible working for employees and less physical office space in future. Industries that rely on customer footfall such as shops, restaurants, as well as cultural, arts and heritage institutions etc. have been significantly impacted and will need to make adjustments for working under Government guidelines. Many jobs and businesses will sadly be lost as a result of the pandemic and this will challenge a lot of young people's thinking about the careers they choose, that's why working with Ahead Partnership is more important now than ever before.

KPMG Leeds - Bradley Keast, Tax Director

KPMG Leeds covid pledge

We have worked with Ahead Partnership over a number of years and deeply value our relationship with them. As a major employer within the Yorkshire region we are committed to working with those from our local communities and ensuring that every student across the region has access to our staff and expertise no matter the circumstances of their background and upbringing.

Through the use of KPMG volunteers (ranging from our apprentices to our partners) we have partnered with Ahead Partnership to deliver interview workshops, world of work days, careers panels, mentoring programmes as well as a number of other initiatives for a whole host of schools across the region. In the last school year before COVID-19, our KPMG volunteers were involved in initiatives that involved close to 3000 students.

We are keen to continue our long-standing relationship with Ahead Partnership into the new academic year. The impact of COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on many of those students that we typically engage with through our work with them so it is more important than ever that we continue to support those schools and students in ensuring that we continue to raise aspirations and give them access to people within KPMG. With restrictions on our ability to deliver face-to-face interactions due to COVID-19 I am looking forward to what we can achieve virtually. My expectation is that we will have more available KPMG volunteers and be able to reach more students than ever before.

Northern Powergrid - Michelle Cummings, Social Responsibility Manager

NPG covid pledge

Northern Powergrid has partnered with Ahead Partnership since 2015 on a variety of educational projects looking at developing employability skills in young people, supporting young people and their families/communities to raise awareness of what to do in a power cut and most recently engaging young people in our upcoming business plan looking to the future of electricity and the changing nature of the energy sector, giving those young people a better understanding of what the future could look like.

One of our social pillars is Education and it is important to us that we continue to support schools in this challenging period and beyond to enable young people to reach their full potential and encourage more people to consider a career in the energy sector. We have worked with Ahead Partnership in a diverse range of ways which is what makes continuing to work together so interesting in that it constantly changes and evolves.

The pandemic has demonstrated the critical role that employers like Northern Powergrid play in the national response and the opportunity and benefits of being part of a sector which is key to the UK and we hope this will encourage more young people to look at different sectors for employment opportunities and support.

The great thing about working together is that we can develop initiatives that are attractive to schools and pupils alongside meeting our social objectives to support the communities we’re part of and serve. The new way of working with schools post COVID-19 will be a challenge for many businesses so to have Ahead Partnership working to help ensure that we can continue to offer employability and careers guidance as well as other community support virtually will ensure we continue to meet our social responsibility aims and objectives and we can continue to encourage more young people in the region to progress STEM subjects and careers.

Provident Financial Group - Cathy Prior, Social Impact Programme Manager

Provident covid pledge

We’ve been working with Ahead Partnership for about a year. The team are very professional and it’s great that they are able to facilitate activities and events in schools that our volunteers can easily get involved in.

Provident Financial’s purpose is to help put people on a path to a better everyday life and we look to do this through our education programme by helping young people and adults to develop skills and gain insights into the world of work. As a large Bradford based employer, it is important that we provide opportunity in our local communities that also supports the creation of a sustainable pipeline of talent for our business. The work that Ahead Partnership do helps us to do this.

With youth unemployment set to increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now more important than ever to continue to support young people in preparing them for their futures.

There will be more new and exciting opportunities for young people to get involved in as workplace cultures and requirements change. It is therefore really important that young people return to school to progress their education and to develop skills that will give them the confidence and desire to broaden their aspirations.

We are looking forward to working with Ahead Partnership in the adaptation and delivery of their services to young people. It is exciting to discover and create new ways of working, especially when the opportunities also help our employees develop their own skills, knowledge and confidence.

Transpennine Express - Monica Sheridan, Learning & Development Manager

TPE pledge

We’ve been working with Ahead Partnership since 2016 and working together gives us the opportunity for our colleagues to help influence future generations as to employability skills and promote the rail industry as a potential career option. 

Although we don’t yet know the long-term implications of Covid-19 on the job market, certainly in the short-term there will be a reduction in the availability of overall jobs and employability skills will be more important than ever for young people about to enter the jobs market. 

We're really looking forward to participating online in Ahead Partnership activities in 2020 and, in fact, it should hopefully make it even easier for front-line colleagues to participate this year.

Junction 32 Yorkshire Outlet - Darren Winter, Centre Director

Junction32 pledge

We've worked with Ahead Partnership for three years and in this new world we want to continue to offer the same support as we have done previously, albeit in a different format. It is just important now as it has ever been to support our local schools and colleges.

With increased unemployment levels, skills and experience are crucially important going forward. We want to help young people understand what makes them different as an individual. Your ability to stand out from the crowd will be vital to secure a job in the current market.

This year we will be working on a joint project with Trinity Leeds and White Rose Shopping Centres to support even more young people in our community.