How do we level the playing field of opportunity and identify skills in young people?
My journeys to Westminster are becoming more frequent as the reputation of Global Bridge grows. Increasingly, MPs and Peers are beginning to recognise the platform’s power to address a host of legislative and social issues that prevent our young people from competing on a level playing field of opportunity, to everyone’s detriment.
Last month, I addressed the All Party Parliamentary Group on Apprenticeships on the specific topic of our successful partnership with the NHSBSA, but in accepting an invitation to speak before the Lord Lucas-chaired 21st Century Skills Working Group in the House of Lords tomorrow, I hope to provide evidence for Global Bridge’s broader social potential.
Lord Lucas’ group is, rightly, seeking insight into the accelerating rates of change in the technologies available for assessing, identifying and delivering talent, and Global Bridge, we hope, is in the vanguard of this technological change. Showcasing talent, and then connecting it with opportunity, is our raison d’etre.
Engineering social mobility is not a primary goal for Global Bridge, but it is a significant and welcome benefit. The subject of inequality of opportunity, and how privilege for some is embedded in our education system, is a hot topic. Justine Greening MP wrote in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper that she saw, “first-hand how privilege bias is hardwired into our education system and then beyond into business and careers” during her tenure as Education Secretary. She called for “a social mobility emergency budget” to tackle so-called “cold spots” ahead of a visit to north east England, my region.
While any initiative tackling social inequality should be welcomed, I firmly believe that Global Bridge has significant power to level the playing field of opportunity. Who knows how much might be saved on a “social mobility emergency budget” if the government would only listen to the teachers who have built our platform and who have learned, by direct experience, the challenges faced by young people given a tough start in life. To give only one example, Global Bridge could resolve the crisis engulfing the government’s apprenticeship scheme at a stroke.
Its broader, social power lies in enabling some of Britain’s best-known businesses to show young people the type of careers they can offer, even before a student has selected those areas of study that will ultimately shape their career choice. Global Bridge is, in essence, a tool for engagement: a channel that connects employers, big and small, with young people who might not previously have considered them.
Take GlaxoSmithKline, for example: a world-leading pharmaceuticals brand with a need for software developers as great as its need for chemists; or Pret, a retailer of unrivalled presence in Britain’s major cities, with staffing needs far beyond the small army of baristas it employs in its large and ever-expanding chain of restaurants. Pret, of course, requires marketing, accountancy and HR professionals as much as the next business, but how many teenagers, with little or no experience of the jobs market, recognise this?
By promoting such opportunities, Global Bridge serves a broader social purpose: engaging young people with businesses they might never consider as employers, and by engaging businesses with pockets of talent they long to explore but have no means of reaching. Time and again, I speak to blue chip companies whose every opportunity is massively oversubscribed, but who would rather hear from the 20 or 30 talented young people who wouldn’t consider their business to be a suitable or welcoming employer.
The 21st Century Skills Working Group is also concerned with the ability of the UK workforce to meet the demand for basic digital abilities and Global Bridge is a 21st Century business. I conceived the platform as a digital equivalent of the committed teacher I always strived to be. During a 16-year teaching career, I discovered that it was impossible to give everything to other people’s children without sacrificing time with my own. When my colleagues disclosed the same pressures, I realised there had to be a better way, and began to develop Global Bridge.
It offers a single, digital, multimedia platform that brings together all the stakeholders in a young person’s career - parents, teachers, schools, FE/HE institutions and employers - on a single platform. The facility for all parties to engage in a safe, structured environment, supporting all 8 Gatsby Benchmarks and the Governments careers strategy, is what sets Global Bridge apart. So many of our competitors claim to offer engagement when they have little more than a database. Engagement is key, both for young people and for employers.
Global Bridge allows students to showcase their abilities in video, audio, and imagery by uploading ‘rich’ content. This facility by itself represents a step change from the traditional written record of achievement that distills a student’s entire personality into a list of grades. The brilliant young designer, who suffers with dyslexia, is no longer disenfranchised, if Global Bridge is his tool of communicating with businesses, colleges and universities, for example. Similarly, the talented young pianist who suffers exam anxiety need no longer see her greatest gift ignored by a system focussed entirely on academic results.
I look forward to my journey tomorrow to the House of Lords and to the opportunity to address the 21st Century Skills Working Group. Ms Greening’s reminder that our education system often mitigates against equality of opportunity is timely, and it will be a pleasure to brief Lord Lucas and his group on the power of Global Bridge to level the playing field, and with a technology that identifies, assesses and delivers talent.
London is a long way from the North East, as Ms Greening, the MP for Putney, no doubt discovered on Monday, but I will continue to travel to Westminster as often as I am asked. The potential outcome – recognition by MPs and Peers of Global Bridge’s ability to create a level playing field of opportunity, where talent is the key identifier, rather than social class, gender, ethnicity or schooling - more than justifies that journey.
Ben Mason - CEO and Founder of Global Bridge