Team blog: upReach Programme Manager Laura on the year ahead

Laura, our Programme Manager, joined us in September 2016. She leads on our delivery work, development, and impact measurement. Here, she explains what a day in the office is like and her aspirations for upReach:

Why did you want to work at upReach?
Prior to upReach, I spent two years working for a social enterprise start-up in the graduate recruitment space. I saw first-hand how socioeconomic barriers prevent less-advantaged candidates with high potential from a) making an application in the first place b) failing the recruitment process for reasons often concerned with their limited social or cultural capital.

I became passionate about the idea of a level playing field so that, no matter what sector, social background should not be a barrier to accessing employment. I also admired upReach’s agile approach, high energy and and their vision and ambition for driving social mobility.

What’s a normal day in the office for you?
As delivery manager I look after our Rise, Aim and Aspire Programmes, along with our social impact measurement, tech and mentoring programme. My days can include any of the following: delivering skills workshops on campus; coordinating mentor matching; developing our approach to impact measurement; creating wire frames for new tech products; running mock interviews with Associates; checking in with the delivery team of Programme Coordinators – the list goes on! The great thing about upReach is that every idea is given space and as a team we are constantly striving to make improvements which keeps everything fast-paced and exciting.

What does social mobility mean to you?
Social mobility is a measure of the ability to move from lower socio-economic circumstances to having a high socio-economic status. On a practical level for me, this means three key things:

  1. Building an education system and labour market where outcomes are determined by potential and hard work, regardless of background.
  2. Developing recruitment processes wherein attainment is contextualised so that there is a greater understanding of the socio-economic barriers some candidates have faced and overcome.
  3. Removing ‘talent’ from its narrow unspoken definition as the ability to assimilate with similar people, so that we realise the advantages of working alongside people from diverse backgrounds.

What are the plans for upReach in the next six months?
The next six months are going to be very exciting as a lot of the changes the team have been working on will come into play – and of course we’ll be recruiting new upReach Associates in line with the new academic year!

We’ve been focusing on creating comprehensive, specialised programmes for 10 separate career streams to support Associates to develop the sector specific knowledge, skills and experience for the sectors and divisions to which they are applying. We’ve been overhauling our online platforms and systems to ensure we are meeting Associate needs with an exhaustive set of high quality resources and interactive items.

We’ve revisited our Graduate Employment Framework (GEF) – a matrix of the essential capabilities, skills, experiences needed for graduates to access and excel in top graduate employment, as specified through research and focus groups – and have ensured that it streamlines all of our activities,resources and impact measurement. Finally, we’ll be out on campus a lot more – meeting with and running events such as skills sessions and mock assessment centres with Associates – my favourite part of the job!

What development or project excites you the most?
I think that the tech changes we’ve been working on could have a huge impact on the way in which Associates engage with upReach. We’re updated all resources, our user interface and have ‘gamified’ large elements of the Associate online portal, my.upReach. We’ve collaborated with the Behavioural Insights Team to think through the Associate journey and how we can engage students at different stages through effective communications.

We have started to develop a programme for upReach alumni, a support programme for students in specific London Boroughs and have done a lot of work to embed impact-led thinking into the way we work. I have a feeling that 2017/18 could be our most impactful year yet!


Interested in supporting our team? Talk to Laura at laura@upreach.org.uk

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