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26 January, 2017 - 11:54 By Tony Quested

Initiative to boost job opportunities for UK students

sherry coutu, schools, founders4schools, entrepreneurs, teachers

Cambridge serial entrepreneur Sherry Coutu has launched a new app-based initiative to smash through social mobility barriers and open up job opportunities for thousands more UK students – including those from low income families or disadvantaged backgrounds.

Workfinder is being piloted in Cambridge, Camden and Manchester and leverages the input of 15,000 growing businesses pledged to engage with students.

Designed to engineer more workplace experience for young people, Workfinder has been launched through Coutu’s Founders4 Schools venture; f4s has already helped generate 130,000 meaningful student-employer encounters via the sister founders4schools web-platform.

The rationale for the spin-off venture is that students often find valuable work experience through their parents – putting those from deprived backgrounds at a disadvantage. 

Government research reveals that students who lack a sufficient number of encounters with employers are four times more likely to become NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training).

Workfinder levels the playing field by helping all students prepare for the world of work – by working. The service launches within a climate in which 82 per cent of scale-up companies report that they could grow their company faster if the people who applied to them had the specific skills they required. 

Additionally, the CBI lists low levels of skills in the workforce as the single biggest perceived threat to UK competitiveness in the next five years.

Teachers use f4s services to invite local business leaders to encounters with students including speed mentoring, mock interviews and workplace visits. Workfinder builds on a highly successful three-year drive that has brought thousands of business leaders into classrooms to share experiences and explain the opportunities.

Like an ‘in-app purchase’, students are asked to present a voucher code to receive the joining instructions from the offer of a work placement they have received.

Founders4Schools has raised sponsorship for these vouchers to be made free to students at selected schools and will turn its attention to raising a syndicate to create a fund to allow vouchers to be distributed to every student in the UK who wishes to use the service to improve their employability. 

Vouchers can be made available in any denomination and f4s is seeking to distribute them to children who receive free school meals in particular.

Students, teachers and business leaders can engage with Workfinder via 
https://www.workfinder.com/

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Sherry Coutu

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