Sajid Javid, MP for Bromsgrove and former Chancellor said

Online skills and mentoring programme aimed to prevent ‘lost generation’ backed by the leading UK business, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, the NHS, the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Commission, and industry bodies, including the CBI and Tech UK  

As the second lockdown raises the spectre of a double-dip recession, employment prospects for young people have rarely been so challenging, with internships, apprenticeships, and graduate schemes all seeing dramatic cuts. To support this cohort of jobseekers, Avado have today announced a second cohort of the FastFutures programme, developed and funded in partnership with a number of leading UK employers and backed by local MPs, the NHS Health Education England, the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Commission, and industry bodies, including the CBI and Tech UK.

FastFutures is a ground-breaking online work-readiness and personal skills programme for 18-22 year olds. The first 12-week programme, which launched in September, provided 1000 fully-funded places. Applications are now open for a second cohort of 2000 learners whose programme will begin in January 2021. The current application window will close on the 30th of November. FastFutures will scale-up throughout 2021, with plans to support close to 10,000 learners by the end of the year, playing a significant role in the national effort to support young people and boost the economic recovery.  

Sajid Javid, MP for Bromsgrove and former Chancellor said

“it’s great to see this second phase of FastFutures—with some of the UK’s largest employers investing into young people from all walks of life, and equipping them with the skills they need to succeed in an increasingly digital workplace.”

FastFutures’ non-biased application process has been designed with external recruitment partners Arctic Shores and Trinnovo through an online gamified test and interview process to prioritise underrepresented groups, who are finding it even more difficult to enter the workplace than their peers. This process ensures places are allocated on abilities rather than education or background to widen opportunities for a diverse and inclusive group of participants. Of the current cohort, 58% are from a minority ethnic background, 55% came from a lower-earning family background, 10% were LGBTQIA, and 7% were disabled or had learning difficulties.

The initiative has been developed with some of the UK’s leading businesses and employers, including BT, AstraZeneca, Barclays, Octopus Group, Tate & Lyle, AO.com, and the NHS Health Education England. The programme offers mentoring to each learner, Q&A opportunities with senior leaders, virtual site visits, plus insights and advice on developing soft skills, interview practice, and networking tips. The online learning content tackles core modules in data, tech, finance, and marketing, and also includes a real-life project which allows learners to understand what it’s like to work as part of a project team.

“Jobs are changing and new skills are needed for the future workplace,” said Gavin Patterson, President and Chief Revenue Officer of Salesforce, a new addition to the FastFutures employer partner list.

“Salesforce is thrilled, therefore, to join the FastFutures movement in helping young education leavers find employment and new opportunities to learn. The pandemic has accelerated a need for digital skills, whilst disproportionately impacting those from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds. Like FastFutures, we are committed to building a more inclusive economy driven by diverse talent, upskilling and digital training.”

“In light of the second lockdown, we are pleased to launch another FastFutures programme” said Matthew Ansbro, Managing Director of FastFutures.

“This is a challenging time for many young people, and the FastFutures programme provides an equal opportunity for a diverse array of youth to gain the knowledge they need to feel comfortable entering the job market.”

John Allan, Chairman of the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Commission, endorsed FastFutures, commenting

“I fully support this programme which will enable young people to develop the skills to help them get into the world of work following the pandemic.”

Manoj Badale, Co-Founder of Blenheim Chalcot, commented:

“FastFutures is the kind of programme that the UK, its young people and its organisations need right now. We have focused on digital, business and personal skills that employers most demand. We have also built an operational model that can scale, as more employers join. The programme has the potential to accelerate existing government initiatives.”

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said:

“Investing in the next generation is investing in our country’s future. Helping talented young people from all walks of life develop the skills highly valued by employers will not only improve their career prospects, but create a more inclusive economy. Business must do all it can to unleash young people's talent and minimise the scarring economic impact of COVID on their futures."

Jacqueline de Rojas, President of techUK, said:

“To fully realise the UK’s phenomenal digital potential, we must address the growing skills gap and recognise that 90% of all jobs will have a digital element to them. FastFutures reminds us that the time for change is now, and each and every single one of us has an important role to play. We must not abandon the next generation as we drive towards economic recovery with social inclusion at its heart and with digital skills as the nation’s competitive advantage.”

Peter Jackson, CEO of Flutter, said:

 “All businesses benefit from diversity of thought, and the commitment of the FastFutures programme to being fully inclusive of young people from all backgrounds resonates strongly with us at Flutter. FastFutures is one way we can help young, talented people to come through this challenging period with the skills that employers really value, and we are proud to be part of it.”

Mark Bretton, Chair, Local Enterprise Network, commented:

“A programme that supports and enables our young people to gain the digital and personal skills they’ll need for their future careers is a great initiative. The fact it’s backed by some of the leading businesses in the UK and prioritises underrepresented groups will target those who need it most. We look forward to working with the programme team to see how LEPs can use our existing, proven skills infrastructure to accelerate implementation and help our young people to access the opportunities they deserve.”

Andrew Mindenhall, CEO of Agilisys, commented:

“The most successful businesses will be those that can combine the creativity and innovation of young people with the limitless opportunities presented by data and technology. I’m very proud that Agilisys will be a member of FastFutures because we will be seeing the future leaders of digital transformation inspired right here.”

Tom Keith-Roach, President, AstraZeneca UK, commented:

“This is an important and exciting program.  As the UK’s leading investor in research and development, it’s already clear that integrated data and technology will transform the way we do science, change healthcare delivery and improve outcomes for patients.  We’re committed to building a diverse pipeline of future leaders and creating opportunities for inspired young people from a range of backgrounds to step up, be part of the change, and accelerate UK innovation as we emerge from this pandemic”.

John Roberts, AO Founder and Chief Executive, said:

“Talent is evenly distributed but opportunity isn’t. Covid has widened that gulf. We know young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have fewer life chances and being digitally disconnected compounds disadvantage.  It’s easy to talk social mobility but harder to create initiatives that make a difference, so I’m delighted AO is taking a leading role in the ambitious work of FastFutures. With working remotely the new normal and more customers than ever choosing online, equipping youngsters with digital and business skills they don’t get at school will help them secure quality jobs that are vital to economic recovery.”

Matt Hammerstein, CEO, Barclays UK, said:

“We care passionately about helping people of all ages to find opportunities to rise. Covid-19 is likely to hinder the ability of young people to get the skills and experience they need to reach their full potential and thrive, so we’re proud to support the FastFutures programme as it seeks to close that gap. This programme will help them to develop and nurture core, transferable and digital skills, so that each participant can adapt to how this pandemic is likely to change the world of work.”

Philip Jansen, Chief Executive, BT, commented:

“We are proud to be a Founding Partner of the FastFutures programme, supporting young people from all backgrounds to develop the skills and confidence needed to kick start their careers. These are exceptionally challenging times and this programme builds on BT’s strong track record of tackling the digital divide and supporting people into the workplace. Digital and tech skills are more important than ever and it is vital that we all play our part in enabling the next generation to thrive and helping to drive a sustainable, inclusive economic recovery in the UK.” 

Nigel Wilson, Chief Executive, Legal & General commented:

“The post-COVID economic recovery must be skills and investment-led. L&G has already invested over £25bn in UK cities, infrastructure and exciting new industries, and FastFutures now provides a complementary way to invest in people and skills – so no-one is left behind when our economy picks up. It’s a brilliant initiative and as Inclusive Capitalists we support it wholeheartedly.”

Myles Stephenson, Chief Executive, Modulr commented

 “As a fast growth Scottish head quartered payments technology business, Modulr is proud to be a part of the FastFutures programme, and we will be particularly focused at helping Scotland’s young get access to the programme.”

Patrick Mitchell, Director of Innovation and Transformation, NHS Health Education England, commented:

“Health Education England and its partner NHS bodies, including NHSX, are delighted to support this initiative as a Founding Partner. It will be really beneficial in providing opportunities for all these young people, from all backgrounds, and preparing them for entering the workforce in this difficult environment. HEE has always supported the learning and development needs of young people and we hope that this initiative will help many of them to consider the NHS as a prospective employer in the digitally-led future.”

Simon Rogerson, CEO and co-founder of Octopus Group, commented:

“FastFutures is exactly the kind of initiative that we need to help jump-start our economic recovery. Young people are digital natives and if we can give them an opportunity to hone those skills in a business environment, where technology is critical to success, they will be in a really strong position to go out into the job market and begin their careers. The commitment to engaging with underrepresented groups is also incredibly important. We desperately need more diversity in business, and programmes like this are a great way to start tackling this issue from the ground up.”

Asesh Sarkar, Salary Finance Global CEO, commented:

“We are delighted to be a founding member of the FastFutures programme and to support the first intake of participants.  Covid-19 will inevitably exacerbate levels of inequality in society, with those leaving education at risk of being the first in living memory to be poorer than their parents.  Whilst there are many challenges in the world, it is also full of opportunity, and the workplace skills taught through FastFutures has the potential to change the life story for many thousands of young people.”

Bill Winters, Chief Executive, Standard Chartered, commented:

“At Standard Chartered we are committed to addressing economic inequality. The pandemic only exacerbates the challenges faced by young people from lower socio-economic groups across the UK, preventing them from having the opportunity to fulfil their potential. We share the commitment of the FastFutures program to provide relevant skills and experiences to young people from lower income households, empowering them as they seek employment during the country’s economic recovery.”

Nick Hampton, Chief Executive, Tate & Lyle PLC, commented:

“The pandemic is having a big impact on the younger generation, so it’s very important that we open up opportunities for young people from all backgrounds and groups to develop their skills, be part of a network and prepare them to join the increasingly digital workplace. Tate & Lyle’s purpose is Improving Lives for Generations and so we are proud to support the FastFutures programme as a Founding Partner, and play our part in creating a diverse, digital-ready pool of talent for our country.”

Ric Lewis, non-executive director, Legal & General, and member of FastFutures advisory Council, commented:

“This programme is exactly what is needed. It is more important than ever to help young people from a diverse range of backgrounds to develop the skills that will enable them to flourish in the workplace. I am proud to be a part of a programme that is aiming to help those who are most at risk of being left behind by the current economic slump.”

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