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Inequality in the city

Bridget Gardiner

Despite being one of the world’s biggest financial centres, London’s financial districts are surrounded by areas of severe deprivation, disadvantage and income inequality. Article by Bridget Gardiner, Executive Director, The Brokerage

The diversity of the workforce within business and finance is not reflective of the local communities around the capital, in terms of gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background. 37 percent of employees in the financial services sector are educated at private schools, despite just 7 percent of the UK population being privately educated.

There are many barriers to employment that need to be broken down so that young people, no matter what their background, are given the chance to develop the career of their choice. This summer, DWF, Marsh, Société Générale, William Blair and many others provided 6-13 week placements through the City Business Traineeship programme, the City of London Corporation’s flagship internship programme. The award-winning programme aims to support these young Londoners as they begin their career, providing them with the skills and knowledge they need, allowing them to compete on a level playing field with their more affluent peers.

While we have some fantastic companies on board, we need even more City employers to join this scheme to help the young people who simply do not have the networks to secure such opportunities themselves. Applicants for the CBT programme participate in a competitive, employer-led recruitment process and are fully supported by The Brokerage to understand how to market their skills to City employers.

All placed candidates receive at least the London Living Wage to ensure they are able to support themselves financially whilst taking vital steps to progress their career. Many reports indicate that the young people of today lack the necessary skills needed for the workplace. The City Business Traineeship programme gives young Londoners a unique opportunity to prepare themselves for the world of work, gaining hands-on experience. The young participants on the programme leave the placements totally transformed, with great knowledge and insight that help them to make informed decisions about their future, using the opportunity as a springboard to a successful career.

Brokerage alumni member, Mohammed Marikar is a prime example of this. Mohammed took part in the City Business Traineeship programme in 2004, when he was placed at UBS investment bank. He gained valuable experience, skills and contacts during his time there. The opportunity kick-started Mohammed’s career as he progressed to become one of UBS’s youngest associate directors at age just 23. Born in London, Mohammed graduated in mathematics from Imperial College London and is an Associate of the Royal College of Science.

We have been delivering the programme for the City of London Corporation since 2001 and, based on our research, we know that over 50 percent of participants have gone on to work in the business sector full time and, for many, this programme was their stepping stone to a successful career in the City or business sector more widely. We’re not solely focused on the City. Other initiatives delivered by The Brokerage target other London boroughs, ensuring we reach a diverse range of young people.

It really is a privilege to help thousands of young Londoners from disadvantaged backgrounds each year. They have incredible talent but few contacts or networks, and just need the information, opportunities, guidance and support to achieve their career potential. With some of the most exciting careers available on their doorstep, helping to bridge that gap is what gets me up in the morning.

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