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TrainingZone interviews: MyKindaCrowd’s William Akerman


How do you spot talent? When do you start? How do you get young people engaged in the world of work? William Akerman from social enterprise MyKindaCrowd is a man with a few ideas and we emailed him recently.

Consumer technology such as smartphones: Empowering or distracting from the learning experience for young people?
Smartphones and tablets should be embraced as the gateway to future learning. Gone are the days when a class expects their teacher to hold as much background information on a given subject as an encyclopaedia or Google.

Classrooms of the future will embrace technology, leveraging their ability to deliver up-to-the-minute accurate information, provide collaborative remote-peer-to-peer interactions, video case-studies and much more; the best teachers will become un-burdened by existing chalk-and-talk delivery, and will embrace a move towards becoming curators of information and facilitators of debate, to encourage collaborative and relevant pathways to learning.

For this to happen, connectivity is key. And currently that means embracing the small screen in everyone's pocket.
What’s wrong with the school-to-work learning journey?
It’s unrealistic for anyone to believe that teachers can keep pace with the fast-changing career landscape. Add that to the rapid changes in technology are bringing to every industry, and it’s clear to me that a teacher-led career advice strategy will delivery at best patchy results.

As the UK begins to balance its books and reduce the budget deficit, I urge government not to begin spending money on reinstating career teachers in schools. Far better would be a continued encouragement, and a framework whereby industry can play a central role in young person work-skills development, career information, and work-experience opportunities.

Schools should be equipped with the means to build a network of relevant industry contacts, both national and local SME’s, who are able to support their school and students. This approach will ensure that students are equipped with work-ready skills, employers have a pipeline of relevant and local future employees, and the UK can close the ever widening skills gap in key industries.

How do you see work experience, apprenticeships and on the job training fitting together, ideally?

For the preceding decade employers have for the large part interacted with young people in an ad-hoc way. HR departments have led university engagement. CSR departments have engaged with Schools. Marketing departments jumping in at will.

Even work experience opportunities have lacked any consistency and in the worst cases been offered to friends and family rather than based on merit of the young person. Fast-forward to 2015 and the landscape will begin to look very different. Large employers like Nestle are leading the way in that all interactions should be part of a joined-up engagement pipeline.

From work-experience at age 15 through to post graduate at 22 years, wherever the ‘jumping-on’ point for a young person the relationship should be managed and nurtured to the point when that young person would like to ‘jump-in’ to a role in the company.

Big Data, better collaboration between departments in companies, and an increased appetite for offering equal and fair opportunities will make this transition a reality by next year.
How might you address these issues in what you do?

All young people across the UK deserve to have an equal future. We connect young people with great companies and improve their employment prospects. This is achieved in an innovative forward thinking way by working with companies to set business challenges; these are used as part of lessons within the curriculum, or online or face-to-face workshops. MyKindaCrowd give young people from diverse groups the chance to respond, and the best responses win an employment benefit; work experience, apprenticeship, graduate placement, or job.

Having a diverse and equal-opportunity workforce is important, and most importantly, having a level playing field is important for young people whatever their background.

William Akerman is MD and founder of MyKindaCrowd, a social enterprise company established in 2011 to transform the way young people connect with the world of work. MyKindaCrowd works with 4,500 schools and over 90% of universities in the UK, offering challenges for young people that connect them with exciting brands and initiatives

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Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

Read more from Jon Kennard

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