Ground breaking leadership programme fuses football and finance

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“I couldn’t have done this a few years ago,” says Akash Ruparelia, 20.

“I was too quiet, shy.” He has just finished giving a talk to a roomful of nervous and hopeful young people in the intimidating surroundings of Stamford Bridge, home to Chelsea FC. They are candidates for the next cohort of the Leadership Through Sport and Business programme, and Akash represents the sort of success the programme regularly produces – success that owes a lot to AAT.

Still softly-spoken, but clearly focused, Akash has nothing but praise for the training and opportunities the programme offers. “I wouldn’t be where I am now without Leadership Through Sport and Business.”

LTSB is a life-changing apprenticeship programme that works with bright young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, whether economic, personal or institutional. Put simply, inner-city school leavers, even those with good grades, just aren’t afforded the opportunities of those with greater social capital.

But through LTSB, over the course of 16 months participants are developed personally and professionally, and better prepared for the business world.

Akash says, “The best bit? I loved working with large corporations.” The programme has a number of elements. While taking their AAT Level 2, apprentices train with football foundations, such as Chelsea’s, to develop coaching skills.

Using these they volunteer on community programmes – and as Akash can attest, managing a class of primary school children is a real test of grace under pressure. They then have a one-year apprenticeship with blue-chip employers to put their AAT Level 3 in practice while they’re learning.

“I was at Bayern LB,” Akash recalls. He was based at the London branch of the German Bank. “I loved the breadth of experience, learning all the different elements of the business.” They really integrated him. One of the best bits was sitting alongside his mentor and even revising together: “He helped me with the harder bits, and I helped him with the things he’d forgotten!”

As always, the assistance of key people really stand out. “My manager at Bayern LB, Peter Kilcast, was very influential and enthusiastic in making sure I was receiving all the necessary training and support from the company, and later went out of his way to make sure I found suitable employment after the apprenticeship.” Akash is also really grateful to his tutor, Peter Keeley at the College of Haringey Enfield & North East London. “He was my tutor for AAT Level 2 and 3, and he was so supportive: always there, always willing to help. It made a big difference to my studies.”

“The AAT qualifications are at the heart of what we do,” says Caroline Adair, Executive Director at LTSB. “Major employers are really interested in increasing the diversity of their workforce and in giving a chance to those who’ve achieved despite their circumstances, but they need to be able to know that our apprentices are capable of doing the work. AAT is a great objective standard.”

“The programme has the support of some big names, but we’re always looking for more.” ICAP, Baker Tilly, Macquarie and Barclays (among many) have all taken on apprentices, because, as Caroline says: “The quality is there.” LTSB boasts incredible success rates:  so far, 91% of candidates have completed the programme, and 87.5% of those graduates went on to full-time employment or chose higher education instead. Akash is just one of many great young people from diverse backgrounds who through the work of LTSB can have a profound affect on their communities and the companies for which they work.

It’s been a busy few months for Akash: he’s completed his AAT Level 4, become a full AAT member, and taken on a new position of Accounts Assistant at Windsor Racecourse. But on top of that his college have also nominated him for Apprentice of the Year 2015. “It’s just a privilege to be nominated,” he says, in full Oscar mode, but without a hint of irony.

While he wouldn’t think of himself as a role model, he’s exactly that: to the children he coached and mentored through football; to old classmates who took more established paths; and to the other students at the college.Akash is hard-working and committed and there’s plenty more young people like him out there. With the support of bodies like AAT, Leadership Through Sport and Business is determined to give as many of them as possible the chance they need to succeed.

About the author: Pete Ward is the Operations Manager for Leadership Through Sport and Business. If your organisation wants to become part of their great work, and play a significant role in the future of disadvantaged young people, get in touch at pete.ward@leadershipthroughsport.org

Pete Ward is the Operations Manager for Leadership Through Sport and Business.

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