Why I volunteer with Rise

Rise offers students aged 14 to 16 from low socio-economic backgrounds the opportunity to build essential skills required in the workplace. Three Rise volunteers from partner firms share their reasons for joining the initiative and why others should get involved too.

Rise works in tandem with The Talent Foundry to partner with organisations across the UK and inspire their employees to volunteer at workshops in schools, offering students an insight into working life and different professions.

Eliott James, Senior Manager at Deloitte, an official partner of Rise, has volunteered at multiple workshops across the country. “The Rise initiative helps break down people’s mental barriers and realise that their skills and capabilities can take them far,” he says. “It is a perfect vehicle to make a really big impact in a short period of time.”

“Each workshop activity builds on different types of skills or awareness,” Eliott adds. “It helps students understand the skills they have that they may think have nothing to do with being a professional and having a career, but that can be applied to roles they didn’t know existed.”

Schools agree, too. “It was really great to have the message reinforced that you are more than your grades, that employers look for more than academic achievement, that you are already developing a wide range of valuable skills and you need to have the confidence and be given the language to talk about yourself and your strengths,” said one teacher at UCL Academy.

“I learnt how to be a good listener, be creative and how to lead a team,” said a student after attending a Rise workshop at Buxton School.

So far, 191 workshops have been delivered nationwide this academic year with the support of a network of over 600 volunteers, reaching over 10,700 young people.

Building skills and knowledge for the future

“Social mobility means anyone from anywhere can advance in their career and in their life, no matter where they started and based off their own skills and abilities,” Eliott says. “When I was in secondary school, I was fortunate enough to have a forensic accountant come to a workshop. Another was with an engineer. I remember those moments fondly – interacting with working professionals really stayed with me – they helped ensure I never doubted myself during my early career. It’s great to now be able to give some of those moments to current students.”

Chris Edgar, Audit Associate at Grant Thornton, a founding member of Rise, recently volunteered at the Academy of St Francis of Assisi in Liverpool. “It’s such a good opportunity to influence even just one person to start asking questions,” he says. “These programmes can show everyone what is possible. You don’t have to go to university – there are school leaver programmes, there are other ways you can pursue a career.”

Hira Rahman, Strategic Risk Manager at PwC, a founding member of Rise, volunteered at Greig City Academy. “The activities upskill teenagers in things like interview processes, workplace attitudes, and engaging with people across the professional spectrum,” she says. “Social mobility is very important to me. Before moving to the UK, I was a first-generation immigrant in the US. I was fortunate to go to a good school and university, but I think as a woman of colour and immigrant I have also faced adversity.”

“I have found volunteering with Rise extremely fun and rewarding, having some interesting conversations with kids that don’t know what they want to do yet, and need guidance on how to get from A to Z”.

Chris agrees “I went to another school in the area and there are so many young people who just don’t know about these career paths”.

Individual, societal and business benefits

One of the challenges facing young people, especially those living in social mobility cold spots, is a real lack of opportunity to engage with employers. For businesses, especially those that partner with Rise, there are so many advantages. “It helps them reach out to a pool of talent with different experiences, points of view and backgrounds. Businesses need a diverse range of people,” Chris adds.

Hira is proud that the profession is actively encouraging greater diversity. “We always talk about breaking the glass ceiling, but it starts from the ground up, at school level,” she says. “Many kids in school don’t even know what opportunities are there. We’re building that bridge.”

She recommends that fellow professionals should volunteer with Rise. “When you attend the workshops and talk about your career, you can quite quickly see the tangible impact. You can easily see when talking to these kids about the most basic life skills that the wheels are turning and they’re thinking about things,” Hira says.

Volunteering for Rise gives Eliott a sense of happiness and fulfilment, too. “But it also grounds me and makes me think how what I do at work sits in a broader sense,” he says. “When students hear me talk about how I didn’t go to university, didn’t know what I wanted to study, but wanted to make money while learning, there is a light that sparks in their eyes. There is a new horizon that’s just been opened to them.”

Rise is also great for volunteers looking to build their own skills, particularly when it comes to facilitating and hosting workshops. “I’m fine with presenting and public speaking, but the workshops are a great opportunity to build on those skills and experience speaking in front of a room of 14 to 16-year-olds,” Chris says.

Hira agrees “They also ask probing questions. I’ve always been a confident person but talking about my own experiences with these kids made me take a step back and realise my own positive traits. It has given me a bit more confidence in backing myself at work.”

The Rise initiative is also organised to ensure that no preparation is needed for volunteers. “The volunteer’s job is to show up with their lived experience and whatever career and educational path they have had,” Eliott says. “You’re introducing a world of possibility to the students.”

The best thing was engaging in conversation with professionals and the different skill-building tasks.


Student, London

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Being involved in Rise, you can:

  • Demonstrate your commitment to improving social mobility
  • Make a significant change to the career prospects of young people in the UK
  • Share best practice and learn from other organisations involved
  • Widen the future talent pool

Please note: If you are a teacher, please go to The Talent Foundry to find out if your school is eligible.