Why breaking the poverty cycle is key to diversity
July 17, 2019
As Accenture’s graduate recruitment lead, Nic is always looking to push the boundaries of diversity beyond gender and ethnicity. Now, she’s working with The Smith Family, opening up employment opportunities for disadvantaged young people who might otherwise struggle to break into the corporate world.
I recently attended The Smith Family’s Learning for Life graduation ceremony. The MC was a remarkably articulate public high school leaver, both captain and dux of his school. His academic and extra-curricular achievements made me feel very inferior!
What this young man credits his academic success to, is The Smith Family’s Learning for Life program, which helps disadvantaged families afford the cost of their child’s education – and connects the student with learning opportunities and support. Disadvantaged students have 30% lower year 12 completion rates than their peers. They are usually 2-3 years behind in reading and maths by the time they are 15 years old.
He strongly believes that his academic achievements are a direct result of his participation in the program. But even that achievement won’t guarantee him a good job. Even if disadvantaged students make it to university, they can lack the networks to break into the corporate job market – and can’t do unpaid internships because they have to work full time in the holidays to support themselves or their families.
To help level the playing field, Accenture is participating in The Smith Family’s Cadetship to Career program. We’ve been supporting the Smith Family and its Learning for Life program for years. We’re also one of the first wave of employers to offer paid internships to Smith Family Cadets.
As part of our involvement in the program, Accenture pays the Smith Family a sponsorship fee for each student (funded through our employees’ payroll giving), some of which goes to supporting their tertiary studies and paying for job-readiness training.
Last summer, in the second year of the program, Accenture took 5 of the 35 cadets in the 2018 national program, who came on board for eight weeks to gain industry exposure, build networks and gain work readiness skills. They’ll be back with us each year in the university summer holidays – and, if interested, will eventually be given an opportunity to join our graduate program.
One of the cadets was placed in HR, so I had the pleasure of working with her. Grateful for the experience, and highly motivated, all the cadets we hosted were really impressive. They swiftly adjusted to their first experience in a professional environment, learned quickly and delivered work of a very high standard.
We’re looking forward to welcoming them back this summer for their second cadetship with us and are already planning where to place them. We also intend to increase our numbers and continue to expand the program over the years.
For my part, meeting the cadets and attending the graduation ceremony made me reflect on how lucky I was to have parents who’d been to university and could afford my education and a network of family and friends to help get me started on my career (I was a referral when I joined Accenture back in 2010).
So many smart, talented people don’t have that access or those opportunities. Yet, as our cadet program proves, they bring with them valuable mindsets and perspectives. People who succeed in spite of adversity have amazing resilience and tenacity.
This is why, for me, diversity is not just about gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation – it’s also about socio economic status. I’m so pleased we’re giving these bright young people a chance to realise their potential.