Too much wasted talent

Ab kooky
Abigail Melville, founder

Social exclusion is a massive and growing problem. Despite improvements in educational attainment (as measured by exam results in London schools), there remain huge barriers to social mobility which are to do with social connections and networks. As our city is becoming more wealthy and the world of work is being transformed by technology and globalisaton, social networks, particularly in “establishment” careers such as journalism, law and finance, are becoming ever more restrictive and hard to access.

Last year I worked with the RSA and the Cooperative Councils Innovation Network to explore how working more cooperatively can help communities benefit from economic growth. We held evidence sessions around the country involving employers, job-seekers, public agencies and apprentices to look at how to make the system work better – see our report Unlocking Our Wealth. There is a massive gap between the world of work and the world of education and a complete breakdown in social traditions of mentoring and training young people for future work. What is needed was powerfully summed up by Kim Hawthorne, an apprentice from the West Midlands, who said

“teachers can’t help us –  we need to work with employers to co-produce our future”.

This was the seed of the idea for Raw Talent.

Elm Green pupil
Teachers can’t help pupils understand the world of work which is changing so rapidly

Since then I have had many conversations  – with other parents, business-owners, employers, social entrepreneurs, council officers, and local schools and colleges. This has confirmed the urgent need to create a new institution to link employers to schools and to create supportive peer networks and mentoring to ensure every child leaves school with a portfolio of skills and experience that they can use to create their future career.

These conversations have helped shape a vision.

A social enterprise to harness and focus young talent

Raw Talent will start with the community in which young people live, engaging parents and local businesses and building peer support to create an environment within which young people can be supported to explore and develop their potential. Raw Talent will be inclusive and work with all pupils. It will draw on the skills and connections of all parents and the wider community to support those pupils who lack “social capital”.

By working as a social enterprise with a mission, Raw Talent can challenge both employers and young people and broker relationships that will bring long term benefits to both. Raw Talent will set out clear expectations for work placements and employer feedback and ensure the creation of a digital portfolio of skills and experience by every young person.

Raw Talent will be a collaborative network of business owners, young people, employers and educators who share a common purpose – to ensure every young person in our community gains useful and relevant experience of work and enterprise and the skills and confidence to create the future they want.

Raw Talent will work in schools to support young people in accessing the best possible insights and experiences to help them:

  • aspire to a future career – especially for students from more deprived backgrounds, to introduce and inspire them through visits to places where members of our community work, for example Google HQ in Kings Cross, Goldman Sachs in Canary Wharf, Richard Rogers archi-tecture practice in the Shard, or London Zoo in Regents Park.
  • learn basic work skills – to place students in a variety of local work settings where they can develop a range of skills – customer service, IT and office skills, organisation, problem solving, time-management, ne-gotiation, communication and teamwork
  • develop their work ethic – put in place peer support and employer feedback systems to address issues of motivation, self discipline, commitment, time-keeping, and help young people learn the value of doing good work.
  • practice running a real business – as well as involving young people in every aspect of running Raw Talent itself, including organising employer speed-dating events and careers fairs, all students will be encouraged to start their own enterprises that address community needs through a young entrepreneurs module in year 9. Raw Talent will use its networks of entrepreneurs and experts to help nurture and develop these fledgling businesses. Those that develop will provide an ongoing income stream to ensure the sustainability of the enterprise.
Pop Brixton is the latest attraction bringing a new demographic to spend money in the area
Pop Brixton is the latest attraction bringing a new demographic to spend money in the area

Raw Talent will collaborate with a wide range of other organisations who can offer work experience, training and mentoring to young people and will make links with brokering and information services locally and regionally, and nationally. Potential partnerships are already being discussed – for example with which is a new platform for short work experiences. A partnership will also be developed with a young entrepreneurs organization to deliver a competition and accreditation scheme in Lambeth.

Raw Talent is at start up stage and is seeking initial funding to run consultation and engagement process, including a series of workshops, that will culminate in the organization being formally constituted as a social enterprise with a cooperative governance structure with decision-making in the hands of a broad membership of young people and employers. The organisation is currently based at the Impact Hub in Brixton and is working closely with the Parent Promoters Foundation at Elm Green School (Tulse Hill) and with Lambeth College.

The London Enterprise Partnership has recently published London Ambitions which sets out an aspiration for every young person in London to have 100 hours of work related experience and a digital prospectus. Once Raw Talent is established it will be well place to help deliver this vision and to apply for funding from charitable, corporate and public sources to bring about this change.

If you are a parent, young person, entrepreneur, business owner, if you support our mission, if you can offer any help or support or if you would just like to know more, please do get in touch:

Write a comment, or e-mail me at –

I look forward to hearing from you!




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