City Matters: The City should be proud to support aspiration regardless of background

Roger Gifford
AFTER a long summer, this week students across London are heading off to work and university for the start of a new academic year. Many of these talented young people will have gained invaluable insight by spending part of their break preparing for the world of work through summer placements across a range of industries, including the City.

This work experience also presents considerable benefits for financial and professional services firms by giving them access to new ideas from future leaders. Access to talent is a critical factor for business of all sizes, but particularly so for large, internationally-mobile City firms.

The Square Mile’s “human capital” comprises over 200 ethnic communities, over 300 languages, and business people and businesses from across the world. But it is crucial that we also help to cultivate diverse talent on our own doorstep in order to prove that the City is both a local and international asset.

Young people are the lifeblood of any sector, so it is vital that City firms make an important investment in the future of their own businesses, as well as wider society.

That is why the City Business Traineeship (CBT) Awards, taking place at DLA Piper tomorrow, should be celebrated. This event will recognise the work of 108 young people from state schools in neighbouring boroughs who have successfully gained internships, supported by 23 Square Mile firms this year.

These paid work placements provide practical, “hands-on” experience that will play a vital role in informing life-changing career decisions. They also help students to develop the workplace skills and networking contacts needed to thrive in a highly-competitive industry.

In addition to other employability projects, the City of London Corporation has been working in partnership with The Brokerage Citylink to deliver the CBT scheme since 2000. In this time, almost 1,000 young people have been able to benefit from internships with more than 100 of the Square Mile’s most prestigious businesses and institutions.

Supporting aspiration and creating opportunity regardless of background is good for the City – and good for talented and committed young people. This is the City in society.

Of course, many companies already do a huge amount in this area by supporting young people through apprenticeships, internships, work experience and career workshops. But there is always more that can be done to open the eyes of students to the wide range of City career paths available.

There has been some controversy around City internships, following the recent sad death of Moritz Erhardt. Of course, lessons should be learned if the investigation uncovers anything untoward. But this should not detract from the fact the vast majority of students undertaking placements in these sectors acquire priceless experience that benefits them through the rest of their career. Hopefully some of these talented young people will be working in the City in the years to come.

Roger Gifford is lord mayor of the City of London.