For the last five years, HS2 has partnered with the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) to provide work experience placements and 1:1 mentoring, ensuring that young people can access professional support when preparing for their next steps into education and employment.
This year, it seemed possible that young people’s career prospects could be adversely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, so HS2 adapted its traditional summer work experience programme to provide virtual support to school and college leavers.
Male and female students from Birmingham, Solihull, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Walsall, Worcestershire, Manchester, Rochdale and Leeds were amongst those HS2 was invited to support by the SMF, as the students all aspire to a future career in engineering.
Over 180 young people have benefited from work experience placements with HS2, and many more have received ongoing professional support, including speed networking, from its 30-strong team of volunteer mentors within its engineering, environment and project management teams.
And this year, one youngster from the West Midlands is set to embark on an engineering degree. Following completion of his work experience placement with HS2 last year, 18-year-old Thomas Flaherty from Walsall kept in touch with the team and sought their professional support with his personal career development this summer.
“When I was applying to university and for apprenticeships the HS2 staff were happy to help with my CV and personal statement, which was really useful,” he said. “They also gave me advice on interviews for the Dyson apprenticeship that I was applying for, which really helped me to prepare”.
Thomas was successful with his application and is now about to start a four-year degree apprenticeship at The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology in Wiltshire.
Richard Winter, HS2’s education manager, said: “HS2 will deliver huge benefits for future generations, but we’re focused on what we can do here and now to support young people through this hugely difficult time.
“Providing access to professional mentoring and work experience, at a time when pupils have missed out on large parts of their education, is just one of the ways in which we strive to give something back to communities through our education and responsible business programmes”.
The Social Mobility Foundation has commended HS2 for the positive role it is playing in supporting young people and helping them to reach their full potential. Emily Hodgson, head of employer relations and business development at the SMF, said: “Disadvantaged students and their futures are set to be disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, so we are pleased to have seen our employer partners step up to the plate and continue to offer valuable opportunities online this year.
“The young people we support are unlikely to be able to access high quality work experience without the support of our programme and employers such as HS2. For this, and their championing of social mobility, we are incredibly grateful for HS2’s continued support”.