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Underprivileged young people see university as a “curse”

Part of problem is school system, says operations manager for Leadership Through Sport & Business Pete Ward

Many young people from underprivileged backgrounds consider university to be a “curse”, according to Pete Ward, operations manager for Leadership Through Sport & Business (LTSB).

“It’s £30,000 in tuition fees, [plus] the cost of living and accommodation, but it’s the expected route,” he told HR magazine. “Then what they see is people coming out of university and being unemployed, with so much debt. There’s a real change in the way these young people view degrees.”

Ward said that part of the problem is the school system. “Schools try to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people. However, that can leave gifted students not reaching their full potential.”

LTSB is a UK social mobility and employability charity whose work includes an apprenticeship programme to help school leavers develop leadership potential and learn accounting skills. The apprenticeships last 15 months and include activities such as football coaching to develop leadership skills.

Caroline Adair, executive director of the organisation, said apprentices from less privileged backgrounds should not be treated as charity cases. “Instead we want them to stand out in a good way,” she said. “Apprenticeships are often seen as the poor cousin to university. If they are only for blue-collar roles, that doesn’t help with social mobility.

“For so many, just to work for some of the companies we work with is beyond their dreams. We heard from one alumnus of the programme recently. He said that he looks out of the window of his job and says ‘I cannot believe this is my life now'."

David Pinchin, chairman of LTSB’s board of trustees, explained that the charity wants to complement companies’ recruitment methods. “HR departments usually have a specific recruitment strategy,” he said. “We operate adjunct to that.

“It’s the combination that sets us apart; an exclusive focus on under-privileged young people, the support we provide to them, and our preparation of the young people before the employers find them.”