Posted Friday 23 October 2020
This month, the careers and employability service at Kingston University is launching ELEVATE - an accelerator programme designed to help provide Black (home) students with the support, guidance and tools to aim high and achieve their full potential. Here, careers and employability advisers Hawa Mansaray and Zion Sengulay discuss the reasons behind the development of the programme and how they hope it will help overcome some of the barriers Black students face on their employment journey.
This year, one particular phenomenon has shaken our understanding of what it means to be human, to be diverse, and for all to have access to equal opportunity - Black Lives Matter.
The underlying systemic racism routinely experienced by people of black heritage worldwide - tragically reinforced by the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery among others - highlights the need for change across all spheres of society, industry, and life.
Earlier this summer, we met as a careers and employability team to discuss the barriers facing Black students when entering the job market, and what more we could do to help make a difference here at Kingston University.
The statistics demonstrate the scale of the challenge that needs to be overcome. Nationally, Black students are 15 per cent less likely than white students to be in full-time employment at 15 months after graduation. Employers who set a minimum of a 2:1 degrees as part of their recruitment criteria are excluding 43 per cent of Black graduates, compared with only 19 per cent of white graduates. At the same time, across the top 25 universities targeted by employers (according to High Fliers 2020) an average of just three per cent of their student cohorts are Black.
Developing the ELEVATE programme
Through our conversations, it became clear that implementing further, targeted support in a sustainable way could have a tangible, positive impact on the employability journey of our Black students. The result of this was the development of the ELEVATE programme, which we will be launching on October 26.
ELEVATE is an accelerator programme for Black home students, characterised as being of a Black British African or a Black British Caribbean descent. It is aimed at empowering students who join the scheme and equipping them with the commercial awareness and skills needed to compete in the job market.
It will delivered in two strands - the first will be student-focused, and the second employer-focused, empowering employers to change the way they engage with Black students by delivering tailored events and activities for them to participate in. The programme will run throughout the year, providing a community of support for our students throughout their journeys.
How students will benefit
Those taking part in ELEVATE will have access to industry-related panel events - where they will gain insight into the experiences of Black professionals and graduates - as well as employer insight days and the opportunity to take part in interviews with social media influencers and industry experts. These events and sessions will be accompanied by a series of resources including blogs and vlogs telling the stories of successful Black professionals across pop culture, industry and higher education.
We hope that through this work, students taking part in the programme will be inspired to explore career paths they may not have previously considered and develop a stronger awareness of the wider employability landscape and skills in planning for the next steps of their career. The final part of the programme will be about providing practical support centred around applying for roles and how to pursue a range of professional opportunities including starting a business.
The deaf-blind American author and activist Helen Keller once said that "optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence". Through our own experiences, we have seen the power of change through the belief there is something better to come. Going in with the right mindset and having the confidence to try something new can make a huge difference . We hope that ELEVATE encapsulates this mentality - it seeks to not just spotlight opportunities, bring visibility to careers, and empower our Black students, but also actively engages our Black students to participate in something bigger. Change.
Hawa Mansaray and Zion Sengulay, Kingston University careers and employability service.