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ELBA and T. Rowe Price: Opening doors to a bright future in finance

In 2014, ELBA became the recruiting partner for apprenticeships at asset management firm T. Rowe Price. Thanks to this collaboration, the company is now sourcing local talent that, without ELBA’s expertise, could have been overlooked.

Barking and Dagenham, along with Hackney, stand in the top 10 most deprived local authorities in England, meaning working-class young people in those areas are nearly 80 per cent less likely to end up in professional jobs than their well-off peers. As all of the organisations involved in ELBA’s round-table discussion on tackling knife crime recognised, genuine opportunity for social mobility, real chances of getting a good job, ambition and hope are crucial to finding a way out of poverty and a culture of violence.

“Until we created the apprenticeship scheme, there was no formal route for those without experience or relevant qualifications to gain work experience and potential employment in our London office”

As an organisation that bridges the gap between business and grassroots action, ELBA is uniquely placed to understand those challenges – and help deliver innovative solutions. One of the most ambitious and successful programmes it has been involved with is recruiting apprentices for global financial firm T. Rowe Price. Based in the heart of the City of London, they were keen to seek greater presence from the local community in their workforce, and their apprenticeship scheme was an obvious means to achieve this.

T. Rowe Price regional head of engagement and corporate responsibility, Mandy Maskell, explains that having a diverse and inclusive workforce is “a business and cultural imperative,” and believes financial firms have a responsibility to make sure people who aren’t already connected to the industry can learn about it easily.

“Until we created the apprenticeship scheme, there was no formal route for those without experience or relevant qualifications to gain work experience and potential employment in our London office,” she says. “We want to attract talented, socially responsible people who in turn give back to their communities. It’s a win-win all round.”

T. Rowe Price currently has four apprentices, a number the firm hopes to increase as the workforce grows. Through the programme, apprentices can access mentoring and industry-recognised qualifications – as well as kick-start their corporate careers. And the success of the partnership with ELBA has inspired the company to get creative about how it could do even more social good: the firm is gearing up to launch a work experience programme for 14- to 16-year-olds from the local community. This will help school pupils gain valuable insight into what asset management is and the variety of careers on offer.

Dwayne Griffiths is a return-to-work apprentice at the firm. He was working as a civil servant aged 18 when he was forced to stop work due to depression and, because of the illness, was unemployed for several years. “The longer you’re out of work, the more it knocks your confidence,” he says. “You wonder if people would ever give you a chance.

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“Eventually I felt able to get back into work – luckily, my mum heard about ELBA at an event and let me know about it. I ended up really enjoying the application process. It felt less like they were going to look at grades on my CV and more at what they saw in my performance on the day of the interview.”

Griffiths was offered a position as a facilities apprentice in July last year. “It has taught me so much and hugely benefited me as a person,” he says. “I stopped thinking, ‘You’ll fail, there’s no point trying’. And I’m not someone who has the next however many years of my life planned out, which is OK. My time with T Rowe Price has made me a much more robust person.”

“We are passionate about making a career in the asset management industry accessible to more people”

In the UK, around seven per cent of children attend private schools. The story is very different in investment banking: research by The Sutton Trust showed that up to 34 per cent of new recruits from the three years prior were privately educated. T. Rowe Price hopes their apprenticeship programme goes some way to levelling that playing field.

Robert Higginbotham, head of global investment management services, explains that it complements existing recruitment strategies to attract and retain the best talent. “We are passionate about making a career in the asset management industry accessible to more people,” he says.

Jessica Lee, 21, got involved through T. Rowe Price’s second round of apprenticeships and made such an impression that she was taken on as staff, currently working as a presentation specialist. She previously trained as a hairdresser and is convinced she never would have secured a job in finance if it weren’t for the apprenticeship programme.

“I don’t know where I’d be without it,” she says. “I never knew what I wanted to do at university or how to get into good jobs without a degree.”

Lee has had opportunities to get involved with a range of charity events since joining T. Rowe Price, including shifts at Barking Foodbank and creating hampers for disadvantaged people at Christmas. She has spoken on panels with other female staff to discuss her experiences with schoolgirls who visited the office.

For the last few years, T. Rowe Price launched a higher education mentoring programme, in association with Queen Mary University of London – something Syed Hussain, the firm’s first-ever apprentice, has been involved with.

The 25-year-old had finished sixth form, been accepted by universities and was working in retail when he applied for the scheme. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to university,” he says. “I was working with a lot of graduates who were struggling to find work even with a degree.” Hussain had seen a presentation by ELBA at college while he completed a BTEC in business studies but thought getting a degree would be the only way to land a job in finance. However, after deciding it wouldn’t hurt to apply, he was recruited for a year-long apprenticeship working over eight teams.

“By enabling bright and capable young people from low-income homes to access high-quality careers in finance, everyone involved benefits.”

“It was very welcoming,” he says. “Everyone was keen to help me learn from my very first day.” When a junior position opened up in one of the teams, the team’s manager encouraged him to apply. He was successful, and not long after was encouraged to develop his skills at university and was supported to keep working throughout his studies.

Having access to people who had worked their way up in the sector was hugely valuable – something he says he would never have experienced without the apprenticeship. Now, a consultant database analyst, he feels equipped to help his friends and others in his community in the same position – unsure what to do or what opportunities are out there – by sharing his knowledge.

As Julie Hutchinson, director of employment at ELBA, acknowledges, it is a perfect example of how apprenticeships act as a vehicle for social mobility. “By enabling bright and capable young people from low-income homes to access high-quality careers in finance, everyone involved benefits.”

T. Rowe Price will be recruiting for apprentices in spring 2020. To find out more, visit ELBA.

T. Rowe Price Group, Inc. is an American publicly owned global asset management firm that offers funds, advisory services, account management, and retirement plans and services for individuals, institutions, and financial intermediaries.

Since 1981, the T. Rowe Price Foundation has been working with non-profits to identify innovative solutions that improve educational outcomes for youth, empower individuals, and enrich community life.

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