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What is behind MS Amlin’s social mobility programme?

Jayne Styles talks to Rebecca Johnson, Assistant Underwriter and Tanya Moody, Investment Management Engagement and Governance Manager about the background to, and some of the challenges of, MS Amlin’s (MSA) Jumpstart programme, which, in partnership with The Brokerage, won Best Social Mobility Initiative at the 2019 European Diversity Awards.

Key points:

  • MSA works with the social mobility charity, The Brokerage.
  • Jumpstart is a bespoke programme.
  • The aim is to make a big difference to the few, carefully selected participants.
  • Collect data, such as regular feedback on the impact of the programme is having on the students.
  • Expect the unexpected!

Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, when MSA’s graduate trainees instigated the programme, they were keen to work with an external organisation that had experience running such schemes.  Due to their work with the Corporation of Lloyd’s, some of the graduates already knew The Brokerage and felt that they fitted the bill perfectly.  The Brokerage is a City of London based social mobility charity that connects young Londoners with employers.  Their vision is ‘a world where a young person’s ability and aspiration alone determine their career path’.

Jumpstart has twenty-five places each year.  100 candidates are put forward by The Brokerage who selects them from Year 13 (17 years old) students, who receive free school meals, whose parents did not go to university, and who are studying at one of eight partner state schools in non-advantaged areas local to the City.  These candidates are typically studying business and/or economic.

Four Insight Days are run in MSA’s offices; this is often the first time the candidates have been in an office.  The students’ teachers also attend, as do a team from The Brokerage; it can sometimes be difficult getting the teachers to stick to the schedule of the day.  The days kick off with a guest speaker, such as a data analyst, followed by a one and a half hour speed networking session with five to six different parts of the business.  This gives candidates a feel for the diversity of work across the MSA group, as well as any cultural nuances between the departments.

The Brokerage short-lists 12 candidates to attend two half-day training and assessment sessions, where they undergo a competency interview and make a work related presentation.  Five people are then chosen for the full, five weeks paid programme.  The launch event of the programme is a serious adventure week at the Outward Bounds Trust charity, whose purpose is to ‘challenge young people to never give up, to change their perspective and to learn the most important lesson: to believe in themselves’.  Another aim of this week is to bond the cohort as they start to work together.

The following four weeks consist of seven hours a day work experience in MSA’s London offices; recorded on timesheets.  The department selected for each participant is tailored to the subjects they have studied, as well as their hobbies/interests.  Each student is allocated a placement manager, whose team they join for the full four weeks.  There is a mid-programme review.

If students want to, they can arrange to attend sessions with other teams and/or lunch and learn sessions, such as Excel or PowerPoint – although many need encouragement to ask.  Everyone also has an MSA mentor.  Before mentoring starts safe-guarding session are run by The Brokerage for both mentors and the mentees.  If concerns do arise these are raised with someone from The Brokerage.  Everyone’s sessions are scheduled for the same time slot and are attended by members of The Brokerage team.

In addition, the students work on a group project set by MSA; such as, ‘what would attract a diverse workforce to MSA?’  As well as working  together, researching and report writing, a key learning for the students from the project is the need for lots and lots of preparation ahead of the 15-20 minute group presentation, which is made on the Jumpstart graduation day to the mentors and future placement managers.

It is important that nobody make assumptions about each other’s knowledge and understanding.  Understandably, there are challenges that need to overcoming, such as the fact that the best timing for the selection process coincides with exam season.  One consistent ask from the students is for more junk food!

There is a lot of regular feedback from participants to measure the impact of the programme on factors such as their: self-awareness, confidence and impact.  This provides valuable data to develop future programmes.

Jumpstart graduate say that the understanding about working in an office environment and the increased confidence they get during the programme equips them well for the assessment centres they attend when looking for a permanent position.  Just over third of graduates of the programme go on to university before looking for a job.

The first year of the programme was very time consuming for the MSA people involved but it is less so now, unless something goes wrong, such as snow from the ‘beast from the east’.

With so much involvement from the MSA team to build a bespoke social mobility programme, it is easy to see why Jumpstart was given the award.

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