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Paid internships in the Square Mile open the doors to City-fringe talent

Paid internships in the & lsquo;Square Mile’ open the doors to City-fringe talent

Over 100 talented students from London boroughs on the edges of the & lsquo;Square Mile’ are set to start their first term at university fresh from paid summer internships at Square Mile firms.

The City Business Traineeships (CBT) programme, funded by the City of London Corporation and delivered by The Brokerage Citylink, opens the glass-fronted doors of the City to the brightest students in the surrounding boroughs of the financial district.

The programme places students aged 18-19 who live or attend state schools in the seven boroughs with prestigious City firms, encouraging them to develop workplace and networking skills and to take a step-up on the competitive career ladder without the financial burden of working for free.

At the City Business Traineeship (CBT) Awards on Tuesday 3 September, Westminster student Joshua Watkins was awarded & lsquo;Trainee of the Year’ for his work at insurance firm QBE European Operations, which in turn was awarded & lsquo;Employer of the Year’ for its support of the programme and backing of paid internships.

The success of the programme highlights the importance of supporting young people from all backgrounds, ensuring the best opportunities are not confined to those able to fund themselves for weeks on end and with existing networks of contacts.

Since 2000, the scheme has helped almost 1,000 young people into internships with more than 100 of the City’s biggest businesses.  These businesses have benefited from access to untapped talent and potential future employees.

The City of London Corporation’s involvement in the programme is part of its on-going commitment to supporting London’s communities.

Mark Boleat, Policy Chairman at the City of London Corporation, says: “The City of London Corporation strongly believes that all internships should be paid because we have always recognised the importance of levelling the playing field and helping talented young people who live on the City’s doorstep find careers. Key to this is not alienating those who aren’t able to afford to work for free. Via paid internships, prestigious careers are opened to those who may otherwise have seen it as an unattainable career option, and in turn the businesses are introduced to bright and committed individuals who may one day return to work for them.”

Following their A-levels, applicants are coached in a series of CV, interview and sector-specific workshops before they are put forward for placements, where they experience real, competitive recruitment processes.

Melissa Lucien, Recruitment Manager at The Brokerage Citylink, said:“The City Business Traineeship programme creates links between top firms and the best talent London has to offer. We don’t believe that the best work and networking opportunities should only be handed to those with established links, and these bright young people have the ideas and drive needed to take on real work and responsibility.”

After joining the programme two years ago, QBE this summer took on eight trainees, all sitting in different departments of the firm.

Esther Felton, General Counsel at QBE, noticed that students doing work experience placements at the company tended to be those who had contacts working for City firms.  She was conscious that, as a result, QBE could be missing out on talent by not looking at students from more diverse backgrounds.

Ms Felton said:“I had no connections in the finance or business world.  When I was studying, I realised just how difficult it was to get a step-up on the career ladder.   In the current climate it is probably even harder for students who, like me, don’t have these connections,  to gain first-hand experience of the City as a career option.

The students we take on are paid during their time with QBE.  They deserve and receive a fair wage for the work they do for us and we recognise the contribution they make.  Talent doesn’t just reside in people already working in the City.  People from all walks of life can thrive here - I am proof of that - and we feel it’s important to promote that.  We are involved in the programme because we believe in nurturing talent, wherever that lies.  It’s an win-win for us and the students.”

She added: “It would be fantastic if, in a few years’ time, some of the students complete their chosen studies and return to work for us.”

Trainee of the year Joshua Watkins, 18, from Westminster, worked for six weeks in QBE’s legacy business management department.

He said: “It was like a dream come true. I had the perfect manager and the perfect placement and a team that moulded around me. It wasn’t initially an area I had thought about but by the first week I was hooked and it’s definitely a career path I would like to follow. If I hadn’t had this internship, I would probably have carried on working in Topshop.

“For me, getting paid on this placement was a bonus, but getting paid is an incentive and draws in more people from the surrounding boroughs, making them think & lsquo;let’s give the City a chance.’

“From the age of 11, I knew I wanted to work in the city and the CBT creates that opportunity for people to come into it. It’s given me a real life experience and experience of life in the city which is key. It’s boosted my confidence and I have met people I never would have met otherwise.”

The City Business Traineeship programme has been delivered by the Brokerage for 13 years. All interns who undertake a placement are paid the standard rate for their role and interested host firms can sign up to the scheme throughout the year.


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