At BNP Paribas Personal Finance we strongly believe that, given the right support and opportunities, every young person has the potential to succeed in their chosen career - no matter what their background is.
With the West Midlands currently home to the highest percentage of young people not in education, employment or training in the UK, we’ve chosen to get involved with a number of initiatives helping to inspire disadvantaged young people across the county.
Through our work with Dallaglio RugbyWorks (Lawrence Dallaglio’s charity which uses the power of rugby to help teenagers who have fallen out of mainstream education) for example, we’ve discovered the importance of providing young people with real-life examples of individuals who’ve worked their way up the career ladder.
In the final blog of our two-part series focusing on our role as headline sponsor of Birmingham Young Professional of the Year, we caught up with BYPY 2019 winner Daniel Williams to talk about how he hopes to be such an example to children and young people across the region:
A far cry from the glitz and glamour of the BYPY awards ceremony, Dan grew up on a council estate in the Black Country town of Brierley Hill and understands all too well the struggle of finding your “path” in life.
Dan says: “Like so many young people, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do when I left college. But at a time when higher education was becoming more accessible than ever before, I decided to study for an English degree and became the first person in my family to go to university, eventually graduating with first class honours.
“Although I really enjoyed my degree, when I left university I still wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do and ended up getting a graduate scheme job in commercial auditing. It was as this point that I really started to forge a career path for myself and the practical experience I gained there helped me realise that while I loved the client side of my role and working for Grant Thornton, I really didn’t enjoy the finance element to it.
“During my time as a trainee I got really involved in interviewing grads and apprentices and quickly recognised that this was what I wanted to do full-time. With the support of my manager I was lucky enough to be able to move into grad and apprentice recruitment - mainly focusing on diversity and inclusion.
“Along with my resourcing manager at the time we removed the academic entry requirements for candidates. Prior to this change it was a hard and fast rule that if you didn’t have a certain number of A-Levels or UCAS points you were instantly discounted as a contender, but we recognised that this was far from the be all and end all and my recruitment research revealed that in fact academics are the worst predictor of future success.
“As part of this overhaul we also looked at psychometric tests and found that across the board they were having a statistically significant adverse impact on ethnic minorities and female candidates- a subject I am particularly passionate about. After making changes to these tests we were named as the most inclusive employer in the UK on the Government’s social mobility index.”
Sharing his advice for young people who think they haven’t got the experience or qualifications to pursue the career they really want, Dan says:
“Typically, graduate and apprentice recruitment is focused on competency based questions, meaning if you were lucky enough to go to a so-called “good” school, you’re likely to have had these kind of questions drilled into you and can therefore answer them off the top of your head. However, for those who haven’t had prior training on this, it’s much more very difficult to know how to structure those kinds of answers.
“In recent years however, employers are becoming less focused on “right” and “wrong” answers, putting more emphasis on behaviours and the way people approach the questions. I honestly think the biggest mistake you can make at interview is being too scripted and not showing any personality as, while you can always be taught the technical stuff, it’s your personality that really sets you apart as a candidate.”
On how he hopes to use his BYPY title to continue his work increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace, Dan says:
“I hope to use this opportunity to help ensure the diversity of Birmingham as a city is reflected in the professional services sector - particularly in industries that are facing the same diversity and inclusion challenges that accountancy was 10 years ago.
“In addition, while there have been lots of industry wide research on diversity and inclusion, I would like to be the first person to carry out a city-wide study and, as Birmingham has one of the most diverse populations in the UK, I feel strongly that it’s the perfect place to do this kind of study.
“This title means so much to me and I’m so excited to give something back to Birmingham - the city that has given me so many opportunities.
“It’s still so strange hearing people talk about your story as “inspirational”, because when you’re going through life you don’t necessarily dwell on the challenges, and instead just get on with it.
But there are so many kids out there who don’t think they’re capable of working in professional services full stop (let alone at the top level) and its those young people that I hope to inspire through my role as Birmingham Young Professional of the Year.”