Better together

Guest blog by:
Dr Claire Malone
Lightyear Foundation STEM Lead

Almost all innovations in science, technology, engineering and maths are built on connections between people; two (or more) heads are better than one! This is particularly true for experiments probing the boundaries of fundamental physics, which can only be realised by international collaborations like the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration

However, even when working within the community of a large collaboration, it can be easy to feel like an outsider when activities that other people take for granted are not straightforward for you. Consider, for example, the physical access to a building. In my experience of working in several universities and research institutions with a physical disability, there are both obvious and less obvious ways in which the experience of wheelchair users can be very different from others using a particular building. For example, it is quite common to have a university site that is not exactly set up for people who don’t do stairs. Even if the building does have adaptations such as a lift, sometimes my access was still restricted if I couldn’t operate the lift independently. Thus, I sometimes found myself at a substantial disadvantage when it came to collaborating with my colleagues who work in the building. We also need to acknowledge the role of informal conversations in social spaces in scientific collaboration. If these are not wheelchair accessible, I found I could either ask colleagues to change their plans or not join them, which can lead to one not being thought of as part of the group.

Unfortunately, it is often the case that as the group of people affected by these problems is so small universities and research institutions are not incentivised to make the necessary adaptations. Scientific institutions are often (and correctly) perceived as highly competitive in an environment that can seem unwelcoming and unaccommodating. This reputation contributes to the underrepresentation of disabled people within these disciplines and can deter young people from considering scientific careers. People with significant physical disabilities are also disadvantaged in physics if they do not receive enough support at the beginning of their education to pursue their interests. This is a situation that we at the Lightyear Foundation would like to change this British Science Week.

One way of tackling this underrepresentation is to create opportunities for young people to envision themselves pursuing their interests in physics. This is the motivation for the Lightyear Foundation Role Model program. In partnership with Future First and the Planet Possibility Consortium, the Lightyear Foundation is profiling the lives and careers of disabled physicists, increasing their visibility so that they can be role models for the next generation. In these profiles, we will find out firsthand the inside scoop about working in physics, from their top tips for starting out on a physics career to their ambitions for the future. We want to celebrate diversity within the physics community to help inspire disabled children to realise their potential.

Some people could think that a person has to be at the pinnacle of their field to be a role model, but this is not the case. A role model is someone who has broken down barriers to get where they are, no matter the perceived size or scale of their journey or achievements. Thinking specifically about role models in physics, they could be at any point in their career, from a first-year undergraduate student embarking on the beginning of their course to someone at the peak of their career. In order to identify someone as a role model, this also implies that they have a degree of visibility.

If the community of disabled scientists had more visibility through the existence of prominent role models, universities and research institutions would be encouraged to make adaptations that break down barriers such as the ones I have described. Furthermore, future generations would then recognise these institutions as welcoming workplaces that are accommodating to the whole range of disabilities, since data shows that if one minority group is well supported there is a greater chance that they all are. Conversely, in my experience, if a culture of a workplace is perceived to be hostile towards a particular minority, there can be a temptation for people who are members of other minority groups to conceal their identity, which has many adverse effects on their work and personal satisfaction. I don’t think this is a situation that any of us want to perpetuate.

This is why we at Lightyear Foundation are encouraging you to share your stories of working in physics with a disability. For more information on this exciting project please see our launch article or contact me at claire@lightyearfoundation.org

After all, you can’t be what you can’t see!

Contact us to discuss how we can support your school to work with former students.

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DRD Partnership

DRD Partnership works with Future First to provide young people from state schools and colleges with work experience opportunities and employer-based experiences.

Arc Pensions Law

As an Employer Partner, ARC Pensions Law supports Future First’s work by inviting Year 12 students from Future First’s network of schools who are eligible for free school meals or have parents who did not attend university to complete a week’s work experience placement at their London and Leeds office locations. Students have the opportunity to experience all aspects of a modern law firm, developing their professional and employability skills for a future career in law.

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Role Models

Having grown up in the same place and attended the same school, alumni are immediately relatable to current students. This makes them ideal role models. Alumni can talk about their educational or career experiences and inspire current students to achieve their potential.

WeAreTheCity

Future First is delighted to be working with WeAreTheCity, connecting inspirational messages from their Rising Stars award winners with students in our schools and colleges. WeAreTheCity is a free, centralised hub and includes gender-related news, a networks directory, calendar of events and conferences, returnships, business schools, inspirational women profiles, HeForShe interviews, giving back and jobs.

State School Fundraising

State School Fundraising support state schools to build fundraising strategies, and have successfully helped a number of state schools to raise significant amounts. We are pleased to be working with State School Fundraising to pilot an approach to fundraising with alumni communities.

Prince's Trust

The Prince’s Trust supports young people between the ages of 11-30 into employment; education or training, helping to build both confidence and skills.

In 2019, the Prince’s Trust embarked on a project with The Department of Health and Social Care to support 10,000 young people (between the ages of 16-30) into jobs in the Health and Social Care sector by July 2024 and it is partnering with Future First to ensure that those involved services are prioritised for upcoming Prince’s Trust courses and services.

 

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Northern Power Women

Future First is working with Northern Power Women (NPW) to give the next generation the support and encouragement they need to make a success of their lives, while also allowing businesses to connect with up-and-coming talent. NPW was born out of a need to accelerate gender equality in the North and currently has a 60,000-strong network.

There are approximately 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want.

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Governers for Schools

Governors for Schools is a national education charity that finds, places, and supports skilled volunteers as governors on school and academy boards. We work with schools and volunteers across England to improve education for children and young people through effective governance.

We have over 20 years’ experience matching volunteers with schools in need. Our skills-based matching service means your unique background and experience will be put to good use. Apply online and we’ll match your skillset to a school that needs you most.

 

Fast Futures

Future First is pleased to be supporting Avado Learning with its flagship careers programme: FastFutures. FastFutures is a ground-breaking online work-readiness and personal skills programme for young people (18-22) from diverse backgrounds designed to prioritise underrepresented groups that are finding it harder than ever to enter the workplace. Founding Employer Partners, including Legal & General, Astra Zeneca, BT, Barclays, Tate & Lyle, AO.com, Octopus Investments, Health Education England, provide funding and mentoring to deliver this unique programme free of charge.

ZING were one of Future First’s original supporters and have remained a key partner and critical friend throughout our development. ZING have continued to advise on and support Future First’s technology development. ZING co-founders Chris White and Robin Tombs (currently) have also both served on Future First’s board.

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Supporting the Curriculum

Former students can play a key role in the delivery of the core curriculum. Returning to their old classrooms, alumni enrich the curriculum by co-delivering lessons related to their careers, helping build students’ understanding of the real world application of their learning and boosting their motivation.

Wellcome Trust

Wellcome and Future First partner to deliver Career Insight Days for young people at state schools in London. Staff from across the Trust participate, including those from communications, research, grants and investments departments. The volunteers coach and support students in creative activities designed to build students’ confidence and to help them identify their strengths.

Future First are partnering with Voi to help give young people first-hand insight into careers in STEM. Through our virtual insight days, and working in the local communities that Voi operate in, we will showcase the range of jobs available in the transport and technology sectors. These interactive sessions will help young people to feel more knowledgeable and confident about their futures and to develop their networking and employability skills through hearing directly from a diverse range of Voi employees.

UBS have funded Future First’s In-House programme in the Bridge Academy, Hackney. The programme is designed to provide the school with hands-on support from Future First staff to embed an alumni programme across the school. The Bridge Academy has their own dedicated Future Fist Alumni Officer, who spends part of their time ‘in house’ at the school, helping staff to build and manage their network of former students and tracking the destination of students as they leave each year.

Since 2010, international law firm, Taylor Wessing, have worked in close partnership with Future First collaborating on a number of social mobility programmes. The most recent ‘Aspiration to Application’ programme provides students with careers insights, skills workshops, mentoring relationships and work experience opportunities. Simultaneously the school alumni networks project provides inspirational and relatable role models to students at their own schools. These initiatives aim to equip young people to reach their full potential.

Taylor Wessing and Future First have worked closely to develop this unique programme of social mobility events, carefully designed to provide the best possible outcomes for students and volunteers alike. Taylor Wessing’s professional volunteers are able to share their experiences and skills drawn from a wide range of career paths for the benefit of a young person’s social mobility. Moreover, these volunteering opportunities encourage Taylor Wessing’s staff and clients to take part in skills-based volunteering – developing their own skills at the same time as helping young people with low social mobility.

Shawbrook Bank

Shawbrook and Future First work together to inspire and motivate young people in state schools and colleges all over the UK. From inviting students into their offices for informative and engaging Insight Days, to sharing personal stories from employees which students can relate to, mentoring, and more. The partnership also aims to widen the talent pool in the financial industry, and open up more opportunities for young people who previously hadn’t considered the pathway.

Legal & General

Legal & General is a British multinational financial services company including investment management, lifetime mortgages, pensions, annuities, and life assurance. With our partnership, state school students with an interest in the financial services from Year 10-12 attend a virtual taster workshop. Acting as role-models in the world of work, volunteers from Legal & General participate in a Q&A panel and skills-building activities that develop students’ aspirations, employability skills and awareness of the world of work whilst providing an opportunity for Legal & General employees to gain awareness of issues regarding social mobility in the UK.

The Key and Future First partner to deliver Career Insight Days for young people at state schools in Plymouth and London. The whole day events aim to improve the employability skills and work readiness of Year 12 students. Staff from across the organisation volunteer their time, sharing their professional expertise in a variety of activities including CV writing, mock interviews and presentation skills workshops. Volunteers coach and support students, building their confidence and helping a young person understand the value of their own skills and strengths.

Gatenby Sanderson

GatenbySanderson is a UK leading people intelligence business advising public services, not-for-profit and education sectors. As an employer partner, GatenbySanderson supports Future First’s work with young people by contributing volunteers to the national and local alumni networks who attend our in-school and virtual workshops. Their expert staff are well placed to support young people with employability skills activities such as CV writing, psychometric testing, interview advice and tips on future careers. GatenbySanderson also supports the Future First central team with training requirements, business support and fundraising.

The multinational law firm Ashurst partners with Future First on the First Steps Programme. The programme sees 60 Year 6 pupils from Bonner Primary School in Tower Hamlets, London visit Ashurst’s London offices for a series of five insight mornings that provide pupils with aspiration raising experience and increased awareness of the careers available on their doorstep. Supported by over 40 Ashurst employee volunteers the interactive programme enhances pupils’ awareness of the types of jobs they might want to do in the future, develops their understanding of the steps to pursuing them and, begins to build the confidence and skills needed to excel in their academic and working lives.

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Mentors

Alumni can act as mentors either online or in person, providing advice, support and guidance to students. Mentoring is tailored to the individual with specific goals in mind, offering students a purposeful new relationship to help overcome a range of challenges.

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Volunteering

Former students often have specific expertise to offer: from coaching a football team, to running after school clubs or designing a new garden. They can also help the school or college community to flourish by acting as governors, combining knowledge of the local community with experiences and skills they’ve gained since leaving school.

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The Drapers

The Drapers charitable function aims to improve the quality of life and expectations of people and communities in Greater London who are disadvantaged and socially excluded.

Thanks to The Drapers support, four schools across Camden and Hackney are able to motivate, inspire and provide relatable role models for their students through building alumni networks. 

Rothschild & co

Rothschild & Co. Charitable Giving Programme support Future First to develop and implement an innovative employability skills programme supporting young people at risk of being NEET (not entering education, employment or training).

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The Vintners' Company

The Vintners’ Company charitable activity is set on breaking down the educational barriers facing young people from deprived backgrounds and helping to ensure that they get the best possible start in life.

Vintners is supporting schools in Newham to build alumni networks and provide access to relatable role models.

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Pollen Street Capital

Pollen Street Capital is opening their doors to students in Year 10 and over from in and around London, to inspire and engage them about careers in the financial services industry. Offering support, networking and insight, this partnership with Future First will allow Pollen Street Capital to connect with up-and-coming talent.

Mayor of London

Future First is delighted to be working in a ground-breaking partnership in Camden, delivering a community-led mentoring programme to support school inclusion work thanks to generous support from the Mayor of London.

Working with young people from in and around Cardiff, Eversheds Sutherland is one of largest full service law firms in the world. With offices across the UK, USA, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia, the company is striving to open up the industry and opportunities to disadvantaged students from the Welsh capital. For the next two academic years, our partnership will deliver a series of Insight days designed to give students in Year 11 & 12 the opportunity to visit their offices, meet employees and gain a valuable understanding of the roles and routes into Law, developing transferable skills from communication to team work.

Lumon is a UK foreign exchange service provider and has a growing team of over 150 ‘Lumoneers’. The company partnered with Future First to open up the FX industry to more young people, particularly disadvantaged children who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to engage with these opportunities.

Since partnering with us, Lumon hosted multiple insight days where students were invited to their office to meet employees from different departments, take part in activities and experience different aspects of the industry.

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AutoRaise

AutoRaise promotes a range of technical apprenticeship paths to inspire young people around the vehicle repair industry. The organisation is working with Future First to present the sector to young people at schools and colleges as a rewarding and lucrative pathway, as well as highlighting apprenticeships as an alternative option to university or college. 

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Markerstudy

Markerstudy is striving to improve opportunities for more young people by giving them exclusive insight into a career in the insurance services industry. 

Through a new partnership with education charity Future First, Markerstudy will offer state school and college students the support, advice and encouragement they need to consider a career in insurance services, allowing the business to connect with up-and-coming talent.

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The Waterloo Foundation

Future first is delighted to be working with The Waterloo Foundation to build alumni networks in schools across Powys, South Wales

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Fundraisers

Alumni can support their old school or college by raising money or donating to specific causes. This could be books for the library, music equipment or to fund educational visits for current students.

Pears Foundation

The Pears Foundation plays a key role in supporting Future First’s core work. Our partnership with The Pears Foundation has underpinned our national expansion and our transition to a more self-financing operating model. Their support has enabled us to have a bigger impact on students across our network of schools.

Jack Petchey Foundation

The Jack Petchey Foundation have supported Future First since 2013, providing subsidies for schools with the Jack Petchey Foundation Achievement Award in London and Essex, which is now our largest region.

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Garfield Weston

Garfield Weston Foundation is one of Future First’s flagship partners. Garfield Weston’s support has been vital to supporting our network of schools reach more of their former students and deepen the impact they have had on current students. The partnership has also played a key role in our transition to a more self-financing operating model. In 2021, Future First was awarded a grant of £50K to continue to extend our reach and impact and support more young people in state schools and colleges.

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Esmee Fairbairn

Future First is delighted to be working in a ground-breaking partnership in Camden, delivering a community-led mentoring programme to support school inclusion work thanks to generous support from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Careers and Enterprise Company

Future First has received funding from the government’s Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) since 2016 to boost social mobility by helping prepare young people for the world of work.

The Dulverton trust

The Dulverton Trust has supported Future First since 2014. Our first partnership focused on supporting Future First’s work in the North-West. Currently, the focus is on underpinning Future First’s transition to a more self-financing operating model.

The Commercial Education Trust was one of the first supporters of Future First’s ‘Alumni in the Curriculum’ programme.. The programme sees former students return to their old classrooms to ‘co-teach’ elements of the curriculum, which relates to their jobs, demonstrating how the school curriculum links to the world of work.

This strand of our work has been developed to bring the curriculum to life and engage students by showing the practical application of learning.

Blagave Trust

The Blagrave Trust has supported the pilot of Future First’s In-House service. The project involves a Future First staff member working part-time on site to rapidly embed a culture of alumni engagement in each one. The In-House Alumni Officer for supports each school to build and grow their community of formers students to return to support today’s young people.

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Work Placements

Work experience is an invaluable opportunity for students to gain an insight into working life. Alumni can provide shadowing opportunities and placements, helping students gain not online more awareness of work, but also the skills they need to succeed when they get there.

Arc Pension Law

As an Employer Partner, ARC Pensions Law supports Future First’s work by inviting Year 12 students from Future First’s network of schools who are eligible for free school meals or have parents who did not attend university to complete a week’s work experience placement at their London and Leeds office locations. Students have the opportunity to experience all aspects of a modern law firm, developing their professional and employability skills for a future career in law.