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James is the driving force behind Generation Success, which he initially launched in 2011 as BPP Food & Clothes Drive, while studying at university.

The aim was to create a three-way partnership between students, employers and charities in which everyone benefited. He established the organisation in the wake of the 2011 London riots, in a bid to change the mood of the times and prove his generation was not lost and had a huge amount to offer.

He has turned Generation Success into a six figure business that operates across the UK and Ireland.

In the past year, the organisation worked with employers to establish 124 new jobs with a combined salary of £1.2m and have supported more than 10,000 young people with mentoring, training, learning and networking programmes.

All information and links were correct at the date of original publication on
28 Jul 2022

How has the network and you personally changed since your last Spotlight interview?

Growth, clarity and impact are 3 words which underpin the changes with me and our network since the last Spotlight.

As an organisation we have become technology and data driven. Utilising cutting edge technology, alongside our expertise on social mobility and youth employability to support more young people into their dream careers.

We now operate in Ireland as well as the whole of the UK and employ 22 incredible people who are passionate about Moving Society to Equality.

Last year, we directly placed 100 young people into full time jobs through our programmes. Which was an amazing milestone from having to navigate COVID, pivoting our business model and now being recognized by Natwest in the 2022 SE100 index and pioneers as one of the top 100 social enterprises in the UK.

We have gone from trying to help everyone to being really narrow on our focus on who we support.

They are our success seekers, aged 16 – 30, usually from under-represented backgrounds, who are ambitious, driven and want to take action to secure their dream role.

We have gone from just doing inspiring events to evolving our model to partnering with 70 employers across 3 service lines:

  • Emerging talent programmes (work experience, internships and graduate schemes)

  • Mentoring programmes

  • Community Engagement programmes.

As an individual, I am now married. I sit on several boards all focused on bridging the gap for young people from education to employment.

I am seen as a thought leader when it comes to social mobility and youth employment.

I have the privilege to speak to thousands of people a year and deliver workshops on social mobility to people in industry.

They say every new level is a new devil, over the years I have met plenty of devils and the Lord has helped me step up to the challenge

What characteristics do you feel you have that has made you succeed?

One of the things I have learnt over the years is that our success and what we achieve in life are determined by two things: -

  1. Our genetics

  2. Our environment

The greatest characteristic is the ability to control your environment to support you to succeed. This includes discipline, friendships, routines etc.

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How important are your networking events to your members?

Our networking events are very important to our members as they help them tap into networks that they would not have without Generation Success.

People have found employment, mentors and business partners just by showing up.

There are two other things which we feel are more important.

The first is our Success Seekers programme which shows our success seekers how to be a sought after future professional.

Secondly, opportunities such as work experience and jobs which we are privileged to connect our members to four.

What impact do you feel your programmes are making for your members?

Success for us is on creating generational wealth which is going beyond connecting our members to their dream jobs.

It is providing them the skill sets to succeed within those jobs and pass on that knowledge to their children.

The reason why this is important is because those who are socially mobile, who climb up the social mobility ladder will find that their children are more likely to fall back down the ladder.

This is especially true for those from minority backgrounds.

Unfortunately, we are living during a period of stagnating growth which means that the opportunities for upward mobility are narrowing and with the cost of living crisis, global competition for jobs and other factors meaning that the prospects of downward mobility (where your children are worse off than their parents is ever increasing)!

Do you feel diversity & inclusion initiatives are still relevant moving forward?

They are more important now than ever before, as we have not achieved equality. I feel that the diversity and inclusion movement needs to be bolder.

For years, we have tried to appeal to everyone and tried to create understanding with those who oppose the movement. We feel that we need to simplify the message around equality.

As diversity and inclusion for many holds a meaning where for them it goes against their interests. And a lot of people from diverse backgrounds don’t relate to it.

We also need to double down on those who we call Equality Champions and natural supporters and ignore the nay-sayers, in order to create real change. As trying to appeal to the masses, appeals to no one and in some cases waters down the power to those who care for equality.

This is why we are asking individuals and employers to join our movement to equality.

Why do you feel STEM has become a driving agenda through government, education and employers?

STEM skills are of strategic importance if the UK is going to remain one of the most competitive economies in the world.

We are a service led economy, however the government's current strategy is focused on a high wage, high skilled economy.

In order to achieve this ambition, they need to equip our youths with the skills required to compete on a global scale.

From a societal standpoint, the biggest growth in social mobility in more recent times was driven by job creation after World War II.

The jobs that were created required new skills which were not present within the current workforce and of course needed more people outside the traditional classes which occupied well paid jobs.

The STEM sector, as one the biggest growing sectors in the world, could provide us the opportunity to create another wave of upward mobility by creating jobs that require new skills sets and as currently, the case requires more people than are currently skilled in our economy to fill it.

In fact, the tech sector is expanding almost three times faster than the rest of the UK economy and it is nearly worth £184bn. There is a growing demand for tech roles in the UK.

The tech labour market in the UK has rebounded from COVID-19.

Demand for tech jobs was 42% higher in June 2021 than at the same time in 2019 (see Tech Nation's Jobs and Skills report 2021).

Explain your graduate programme in partnership with Accolite Digital?

We have teamed up with a fast growth International Company called Accolite Digital to create a graduate programme in Software development in London and Glasgow.

Our joint aim is to increase representation of females and people from minority backgrounds within the sector.

As the technology sector in terms of gender only has 26% female and ethnic minorities make up 15.2%.

Accolite Digital is a committed partner in our move to equality and this year plans to hire 15 graduates for a September 2022 start on top of the 4 that they hired through Generation Success earlier in January 2022.

This is truly an exciting opportunity for our budding software developers to kick start their career within one of the fastest growing sectors in the world.

When approx. 44% of BAME graduates still struggle to find employment once leaving University, what advice would you give future leaders to overcome this challenge?

Learn the unwritten codes of society in order for you to know how to play the game.

It starts with understanding what you truly want to do, doing an honest assessment of your skills and attributes vs what is required.

Deciding on what you are going to do about your areas of weakness. Either taking action or changing to another field.

Next, start early.

Try to gain relevant work experience and if you cannot find it, then create it.

Help out a family member who has a start up and do the job for them that you would like to one day do as a career, in order to build relevant experience and showcase to an employer your hunger to learn.

Do courses and focus on your personal development.

The biggest factor to overcome the challenge is recognizing that our employment prospects will be limited by our skills and knowledge.

Hence, expanding on our skill sets and knowledge will grow your earning potential and prospects.

What are some of the issues young people face around job selection; interview preparation and post review?

The biggest issue young people have is the fact that they do not know the unwritten codes on how to be an attractive sought after future professional.

They are doing things that their teachers, careers advisers and parents tell them they must do to succeed, however the problem is that what they are being told to do is what is expected of them.

Turning up on time, doing their research, dressing smart etc. are all things which put them in the zone of possible candidates to hire, but does not make them the one candidate above the rest.

This is what we teach them to embody in our success seekers programme, the attributes of that one candidate that is so good, an employer cannot say no to you.

When you’re the one candidate that an employer can see themselves investing in, it would knock out all hesitations around grades and experience.

Entrepreneurship is still a major driver for the government; do you feel that you have been able to successfully navigate young people in this area through your Start Up London – Next Level Business Programme?

Our Start-Up London programme has been a tremendous success, we were able to support 80% of those who took part, in turning their business idea, into a registered business, with a trading website within six weeks.

This is more impressive given the fact that most people will stop at the idea stage or would spend years developing that idea.

The intensive programme of coaching, workshops and peer accountability accelerated our young people’s journey.

The biggest challenge as always is confidence and mindset.

The reason why it takes people such a long time to start a business even though they are passionate about their ideas is a lack of belief that they can make it work, or even overthinking the process.

The Next Level Business programme helped participants to break down the process in small manageable steps and guided them on their journey to actually getting started.

How important is social media for building a professional profile for young people?

Social media is a powerful tool for building a professional brand and is very important to those who know how to use it to attract opportunities to them.

There are so many unwritten codes to social media and life that only those who learn them will truly stand out and succeed.

The key place to start is to recognize the brand you want to cultivate and be purposeful in everything you are doing both in person and online.

Thanks for taking the time to share and update the work of Generation Success.

If you would like to get in contact visit their website for more information or connect with them on Twitter and Instagram.
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