From education to employment

Over 100 business leaders gather in Manchester to discuss youth inequalities in education

‘Working Together for Young People’ event at UA92, Manchester.

Over 100 business and youth leaders gathered in Manchester on Wednesday to discuss how the North West can better support education and career prospects for young people. 

The open discussion was hosted by Gary Neville (Co Founder) and Sara Prowse, CEO at University Academy ‘92 (UA92), the Manchester-based higher education institution, who called on business leaders to work together to help resolve educational inequalities. 

Speaking after the discussions, which came three months after the launch of the Government’s Levelling Up Whitepaper, Prowse said, “We are pleased that so many business and youth leaders gathered to discuss the issues at hand. Qualifications and access still remain key to life chances, and these are made more difficult if young people are not able to move into higher education, or don’t have the support network or opportunities to follow their chosen career paths.”

“We’ve called on the region’s business community to come together to open up opportunities, and give young people in Greater Manchester and across the North West the confidence that they can make it.”

Education accessibility for young people remains unfairly biased across the UK, and in Greater Manchester, young people from poorer households are increasingly less likely than more affluent peers to attend university.

Prowse continued, “15 percent of our students here at UA92 were on Free School Meals at school or college, compared to just 8 percent of higher education starters across the UK as a whole. This is a good start and we are proud of our progress in this area, but these statistics also show how much more we need to do as a nation to ensure all young people can achieve the qualifications that they aspire to, wherever they live and whatever their background.”

Diane Modahl MBE, CEO of the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation and Chair of Greater Manchester’s Young Person’s Task Force, who also joined the discussions, commented, “Ultimately, we need greater investment if we want to level up and open opportunities for young people, especially for those living in disadvantaged areas of Greater Manchester.”

“The work the region is doing is a strong start, but we need to continue to launch initiatives that will empower students with the confidence to be who they want to be. If there are no career routes for them to aspire to, we cannot expect them to put themselves forward in the first place, and so it’s on those of us in leadership positions to ask ourselves ‘Are we doing enough?’, and more importantly, ‘What more can we do?”.

Debating the progress of the Government’s Whitepaper on Levelling Up, Lou Cordwell, Chair at the Greater Manchester LEP, said, 

“As a city region, we need to ensure that our business community is giving all young people a foot in the door by providing work experience, mentorship and support.

“We need to demystify our high growth sectors like science, tech, sustainability, etc. and make these opportunities feel within reach for students who may not have experienced these industries, or the world of work, before. This is how we’ll build our inclusive business leadership of the future.”

Stuart Dunne, CEO of youth charity, Youth Focus North West and Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership also joined the discussion alongside leaders from Microsoft, TalkTalk, KPMG and Lancashire Cricket, who have already partnered with UA92 to provide students with guest lectures, work experience opportunities, personal development guidance, and financial support.

University Academy 92 (UA92) was co-founded by the Class of ‘92 and Lancaster University in 2019, offering a portfolio of degree and higher education courses across business, sport, media and digital disciplines. It currently serves over 400 students, over 70% of whom are from the Greater Manchester region. 

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