Engineering a lasting legacy in East London

Today the Social Mobility Commission reports that the UK is "deeply elitist" and calls for a national effort to "break open" Britain's elite, asking the government to tackle the culture of unpaid internships that disadvantage those too poor to work for nothing. Citizens UK believes that offering work placements to all is just one way to tackle inequality of opportunity.

They are celebrating as it was today confirmed that the next cohort of five young people will be taking up the third set of internships being made available through its Olympic legacy programme with international engineering business Atkins.

Atkins, one of the world's leading design, engineering and project management consultancies, was the official engineering design services provider to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Emmanuel Gotora, Citizens UK organiser said:

“As a local community organisation we were introduced to Atkins by LOCOG. Our members were keen to see a lasting and meaningful legacy from the Olympic Games.

“Youth un-and-under employment is a big issue in East London, and with Atkins, we saw an opportunity to inspire our young people and give them an opportunity to experience work at a global company. Atkins saw the opportunity too, and agreed to give a number of young people an experience that would make a real difference to their futures.”

Together TELCO and Atkins have devised a three-month, London Living Wage paid internship programme. Since its inception in 2012, 16 young people have completed the programme, with six going on to secure full-time positions with Atkins and others going on to complete further study and one securing an alternative engineering internship in the NHS. All of the interns have the benefit of a three month period of experience with a reputable company on their CVs.

Sanna Shabir, a 19 year old from Leyton, who has recently completed the internship programme, said:

 “Last year I got my A Level results and they weren’t what I had hoped for. I was feeling pretty bleak about the future and unsure what to do.

“Thanks to the internship scheme with Atkins and East London Citizens I’ve got an exciting future. I completed the internship, negotiated an extension and now I’ve secured myself a full time apprenticeship with Atkins to become a Civil Engineer with the possibility of completing a sponsored degree in the future.

“The internship boosted my confidence, gave me experience of a career I hadn’t previously considered and has helped me realize the different career options that are out there. I have even re-taken the exams I wasn’t happy with.”

The internship programme combines work experience with employability work shops helping the young people with everything from CV writing to interview techniques and negotiation skills.

The partnership between Atkins and TELCO also sees young professionals from the business visit TELCO member schools to speak about their careers and introduce the world of engineering and design to students who may not have been aware of the opportunities engineering can offer.

Jilly Calder, a HR business partner at Atkins, said:

“Our engineering and design work played an important role in helping to regenerate an entire area of East London. However, the London 2012 legacy is as much about people as the infrastructure.

“We need a diverse workforce to come up with clever solutions to complex challenges for our clients. The internship programme with TELCO allows us to meet a group of young people whom we might not otherwise get to know. We share our knowledge, experience and expertise with the interns so they will hopefully be able to pursue a successful career in engineering. For Atkins, it is very important to maintain close links with those communities which welcomed us during the creation of the Olympic Park.”

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