Helping students find future success with FLAARE
- Posted on March 7, 2023
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
I love that Avanade is a company with a social purpose. The flexible, supportive and innovative culture I see every day drives me to give everything to my role as Early Talent Lead for UKI. It also gives me the energy to spend on meaningful plus-one roles, such as being a Citizenship Champion and leading the Young Enterprise partnership in the U.K. (United Kingdom).
I am often asked, ‘Izzie, why do you have this passion for early talent and access to opportunities?’ I have thought about this a lot, and now believe this drive has been with me from an early age. I was first exposed to volunteering as a child. My parents work for the NHS (National Health Service), and it was expected that I get stuck in. My mum ran a holiday group for children with disabilities, so I have early memories of coordinating games and running small errands like fetching my mum wipes, gloves and feeding bottles — whatever they needed when caring for children!
In my university and early adult years, I worked with homeless people and in the refugee camps in Northern France. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, it became important to find a meaningful cause in London, where I live. I started using my Alternative Work Week schedule one morning per week with Jamie’s Farmin Waterloo. Here, I worked with young people excluded from mainstream school (in a Pupil Referral Unit or PRU) via the Haringey Learning Partnership.
Whilst working with a range of students, many with behavioral, special learning needs or from challenging home lives, I realized working on tasks that had an immediately tangible outcome could change attitudes and channel productivity even amongst the most challenging young people. On the farm, this meant cleaning out goat and sheep pens, shoveling compost and cooking. Fun as this may be (depends on who you are!), it did not necessarily mirror a future workplace – or most people’s future workplaces, anyway.
This experience got me thinking: what could we do to channel young energy in the right direction? How can we re-engage talent who are still left outside of the traditional social mobility and recruitment strategies? My time outside of work soon became a lot of listening to podcasts and drawing on flipchart paper. This is how FLAARE was born.
FLAARE is a community organization that passionately believes all young people deserve opportunities to develop their skills and talents. The mission is to empower young people from all backgrounds to think about their futures. FLAARE has started to do this by offering a new take on traditional work experience programs and building student brand collaborations, connecting young people with entrepreneurial mentors. This provides students with a relatable, creative platform whilst teaching business and entrepreneurial skills, all relevant and transferrable for entering higher education or workplaces. Alongside this learning, these programs drive the creation of student-led product lines. You can see these designs for yourself on the organization’s Instagram page.
The first pilot collaboration was with contemporary streetwear and jewelry brand STÖÖKI and Haringey Learning Partnership. This experience was an enormous success. Running for 12 weeks (as after school sessions), it resulted in a limited edition FLAARE x STÖÖKI collection that’s now on sale to the public. During this process students learned about design, fashion, starting their own businesses and using social media to sell and market products. They modeled and then launched the collection to their community (including the Deputy Mayor and local press) during a student fashion show. At the event, they spoke about their experiences to an audience — a massive change in behavior from 12 weeks before!
Despite early reservations about being bored, one student’s mindset was turned around by the immersive process and getting to know STÖÖKI.
“Seeing this creative work pay off has sparked ideas about a future in fashion,” he said at the event. “This is gonna help me a lot in life." Others called it an “opportunity,” “fun," and “good to actually be able to think about doing something with (my) life.”
A major aim of FLAARE’s mission is to provide a real flavor of the world of work, so profits from the T-shirts are shared between FLAARE and the young entrepreneurs. Students can earn up to £400 for their work.
“It’s amazing, we can earn money from school,” one student said.
Now FLAARE has wrapped up the pilot program, the aim is to keep building a supportive community around these young entrepreneurs and consider how to inspire more young people to create, learn, build and earn.
It’s been an amazing journey so far, and one that wouldn’t have been possible without the flexibility and encouragement I’ve received at Avanade. I love taking the energy I get from my role at Avanade – from being part of a people first, authentic, workplace – to pursue this passion outside of work.