Despite the recent expansion of higher education, levels of participation and chances of academic success are still lowest among those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds – with ethnicity also an issue.
“Not everyone comes up with the same level of support at home or in their community,” said Ashlie Collins, director at Forage – a San-Francisco based company that hosts interactive virtual experience programs aimed at helping students land jobs at the world's best companies – during episode two of season two Inside your Brand with Get-Optimal.com.
She continued: “You may have people around you reinforcing the thought that this – higher education or a career in an industry where there are very few people like you – isn’t the right path for you.”
Collins should know. A self-described “first-generation university graduate from a repressed economic area in middle America” she knows “all too well how broken the system is” and is on a mission “to fix that for my own kids and the next generation of emerging talent.”
“Students often don’t think about a particular career path because they don’t think it is accessible. They self select out,” Collins told Daniel Fellows, host of Inside your Brand and founder of Get-Optimal – a UK based global technology company and diversity and inclusion provider whose core product is job ad optimisation.
During the 20-minute episode, Collins touched on the need to remove obstacles so as to widen access to career paths that people from disadvantaged or culturally diverse backgrounds wouldn’t normally consider.
One way to do this, on the back of Covid-19, could be for companies to move their summer internship or work experience programme to a virtual model. “Not everyone can travel to London for a week’s unpaid work,” Collins pointed out.
“Not everyone can afford to do this so, as hungry as we are to get back to in-person meetings and events post-pandemic, to truly keep it accessible there’s going to have to be a virtual element – so people can opt-in and deal with everything else going on in their lives.”
Opening up on her own experiences, Collins revealed: “I was looking after other siblings in my family and trying to work out how I was going to pay to put myself through school. Taking a whole week off to go and gain work experience in another location just wasn’t an option for me.”
Collins concluded by urging employers and further education institutes alike to “identify potential talent and give people a chance to pivot.
“If we head into the next stage of recruitment saying ‘I want XX amount of experience and education from this particular university, we’re going to fall short.
If we can open up our mind and start to think about a person’s experience in life holistically and what that will bring to our organisation, then [...] we’ll have a bigger impact. We can change people’s lives with these jobs rather than hitting hiring metrics.”
Catch episode two of season two of Inside your brand over on Get-Optimal’s YouTube channel.
Consisting of 25 weekly episodes, season two of Inside your Brand is focusing on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DE&I) and Accessibility in the 360-degree sourcing, hiring and onboarding process.
Episode three featuring Shereen Daniels, an advocate for anti-racism business, the founder and managing director of HR rewire and vice-chair of the Black Business Association for London Chamber of Commerce & Industry, airs on Thursday May 20.